Vancouver History – Musqueam First Nation

The Musqueam band of the Coast Salish tribes of Native Americans traditionally own the largest portion of the land on which the City of Vancouver, BC lies, and most of the Metro area was theirs, too.

They have lived in this area for about 4,000 years, at least, beginning at the area known as the Great Fraser Midden, a huge archeological mound of shellfish detrus and other household artifacts. None of the 3 First Nations in and around Vancouver have signed a treaty ceding their traditional territories, ever.

The various parts of the Canadian Government still have not made a fair and equitable settlement for the ongoing rights of this sovereign First Nation group. The Musqueam nation states on its official website that “Over 143 heritage sites were recorded in Musqueam Traditional Territory in Musqueam’s 1984 Comprehensive Land Claims submission to Canada. In the interim eighteen sites have been documented for a total of 161.” [1]*

For a fair settlement to happen in our time, more Anglos need to be supportive instead of being unaware or even continuing the injustice against the First Nations.

In researching this topic, for example, a religious service in their traditional way for a marriage is not considered “legal”, and therefore the practice is happening less and less. Why is their ceremony not recognized yet?

Historically, when Simon Fraser, the English explorer, came to this part of the world, the Musqueam First Nation defended its territory and Fraser would have likely been killed had not a (Kwantlen) tribe’s leader warned him.

But, the British completed their settlement and encroached on all the tribal lands, without meaningful or any compensation, as they and other colonial nations did, world-wide.

The injustice still exists today. Now, this tribe has a tiny reserve where the north fork of the Fraser River empties into the bay in Vancouver, and it is not enough area for the people to continue their tribal ways, as they wish to.

Tribal life, as their own community, is highly important. Living together, with multiple related families in one big-house, among other big-house tribal families, is an essential part of the sociological foundation of their culture, which is based on a very sophisticated kinship system.

There are about 40,000 of Vancouver metropolitan area’s 2 million population who are registered various First Nations’ people. Their cultural needs must be addressed.

And, as salmon is the important cultural foundational food, when the commercial and recreational fishing interests are constantly assaulting the First Nation tribal fishing rights, it’s serious.

Tribal fishing rights were confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, but that has not stemmed the assault or the illegal fishing by non-Native Americans. The Musqeam’s main village is located at the mouth of the Fraser River which is one of Canada’s most important salmon-producing systems along the Northwest Coast.

The Musqueam calndar months are named for the timing of their food supply. November is named as the “Season of the Dog Salmon”. February, when the Winter Olympic Games comes to Vancouver, is the “Season of the Herring Roe”. This underscores their world-view which is totally-united with Nature.

Musqueam culture is intimately tied to the lands and waters within their traditional territory. The larger Anglo culture needs to start behaving in a way to preserve the purity and existence of the natural resources still left in and around Vancouver, and build more — both for the well-being of the planet and the people and animals who live off the land.

Amazingly, the Musqueam strive to continue to maintain a viable culture which holds a special relationship to the land, even though they must gather their traditional food in the heart of a modern city.

The tribes, like others across the continent, on both sides of the border, are constantly embroiled in litigation just in order to be able to have their culture survive. So see if there is a way to lend your expertise and show your solidarity with them when you visit Vancouver.

* Quote is from the Tribe’s website. Find the homepage for Musqueam culture at Vancouver Useful Links Archive from TravelVacationReview

©2009 mystic at Travel Vacation Review