The 2022 SSSS Annual Conference will be held in the territories of
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), &
Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.
The land of present-day Vancouver was inhabited by the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations for thousands of years.
The Musqueam are traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking people who have always moved throughout the territory using the resources it provides for fishing, hunting, trapping, and gathering. The name Musqueam relates back to the flowering plant, məθkʷəy̓, which grows in the Fraser River estuary. A sχʷəy̓em̓ that has been passed on from generation to generation explains how they became known as the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm – People of the məθkʷəy̓ plant. (Source: https://www.musqueam.bc.ca/)
According to Squamish history, it is not known when the first humans entered Howe Sound in search of food and shelter, but it is reasonable to believe it was 5,000 years or more ago. To survive, they would have led a nomadic life, travelling wherever resources were best obtained for the time of year. As hundreds of years rolled by, they grew in number and permanent settlements began to evolve. Living in the same place for thousands of years has given aboriginal people a sense of stewardship and connection to the land which is almost extinct for Europeans. They did not feel ownership as we understand it today, they felt custodial inheritance, of a land and terrain which belonged by natural right to everyone. (Source: https://www.squamishhistory.ca/historyofsquamish)
Oral history tells us up to 10,000 Tsleil-Waututh members lived in the traditional territory before contact with Europeans. The ancestors’ survival depended on cycles of hunting, harvesting, and preserving foods, and on trade with neighbors. Originally, this great nation was about 10,000 strong, a distinct Coast Salish nation whose territory includes Burrard Inlet and the waters draining into it. (Source: https://twnation.ca/)
The first Europeans to explore the area were Spanish Captain José María Narváez in 1791, and British naval Captain George Vancouver in 1792. In 1827 Fort Langley trading post set up by Hudson’s Bay Company and in the 1860s European settlements began. With the influx of Europeans, the Indigenous Peoples in Canada were killed in the largest numbers by European diseases such as measles, smallpox, and influenza for which they had no immunity. They also were killed by European blades and guns, and colonialism—land theft on a gigantic scale, forced removals, and exhaustion of natural resources. From the 1830s onward, the indigenous groups were encouraged—at times forced—to give up their old migratory habits, settle on reserves, learn farming and trading, and receive religious instruction. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the British Canadians were ready to do away with the political and cultural independent existence of indigenous nations. In 1867, the British North America Act united three British colonies into the first four provinces of the Dominion of Canada, establishing Canada as a federation of provinces, a dominion under the British Crown.
Two main pieces of legislation laid the foundation for what was to be the new Dominion’s policy regarding relations with First Nations: the Gradual Civilization Act of 1857 and the Gradual Enfranchisement Act of 1869. This marked the beginning of the forced dependency of the First Nations on the Canadian government and the forced assimilation of the First Nations people. One could either be deemed “Status Indian” or “enfranchised” – not both. For example, if Status Indians earned a university degree or became a professional, they gained full Canadian citizenship (with or without their consent) and lost their Indian status.
As Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald said in 1887, “The great aim of our legislation has been to do away with the tribal system and assimilate the Indian people in all respects with the other inhabitants of the Dominion as speedily as they are fit to change.” Yet despite this high talk of Indian enfranchisement, the official process designed to assimilate indigenous people as soon as possible, Indigenous Peoples in Canada could not vote until the 1960s.
Musqueam people continue to practice their traditions and culture daily. They do this by practicing sacred ceremonies and, more informally, through sharing meals and sχʷəy̓em̓ amongst community and with other First Nations communities who practice the same traditions. xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people continue to honour their collective responsibilities to keep their culture vital and strong, share the teachings and laws, and work collaboratively to protect our environment while building a vibrant community for all. (Source: https://www.musqueam.bc.ca/)
The Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Úxumixw, the Squamish territory is 6732 square kilometers with about 4,000 members of the Squamish Nation. They speak Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Snichem with the number of fluent speakers being extremely low but they are aggressive in bringing back to their youth. (Source: https://slcc.ca/history/) The modern era of Squamish Nation history started in 1923 when a majority of the Squamish People who were eligible voters at the time all voted to request the Federal Department of Indian Affairs amalgamate several different Indian Bands with Squamish People into a single entity called the Squamish Nation. The amalgamation request was approved and all accounts were merged, all Indian Reserve lands were to be held by the single entity, and all Squamish People were to receive equal distribution of any revenue received from any of the 26 different Indian Reserve lands that belonged to all Squamish People. (Source: https://www.squamish.net/)
Today the Tsleil-Waututh nation draws on the knowledge of their ancestors to remedy past wrongs, reclaim their territory and traditions, and advance into a bright future. They assert their Aboriginal rights and title and put the Tsleil-Waututh face back on our traditional territory in all they do. The population has increased more than 200% in the past 30 years. Today, the Nation is more than 500 people strong, including a young population and growing quickly. The stewardship ensures Tsleil-Waututh participates in all planning and development on the traditional territory, so once-abundant resources can be restored, protected, and used sustainably. They are rebuilding our culture and environment so future generations can thrive as ancestors have. (Source: https://twnation.ca/)
While land acknowledgment is a small part of supporting Indigenous peoples, SSSS hopes this statement will inspire others show solidarity with native communities.
If you are able, please donate to:
· Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society http://www.vafcs.org/about/donate.php
· Honoring Indigenous Peoples (HIP) https://www.canadahelps.org/en/dn/65391
· Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre https://slcc.ca/supportus/
· BC Aboriginal Child Care Society https://www.acc-society.bc.ca/donate/
· Indspire: https://indspire.ca/ways-to-give/donate/
· List of Indigenous Organizations in Canada published by the British Columbia Aboriginal Network on Disability Society: https://www.bcands.bc.ca/aboriginal-organizations/
If you are not able to donate, please amplify the voices of Indigenous people leading movements of change.