Within Vancouver Coastal Health boundaries there are 14 First Nation communities with approximately 27,000 members living on reserves and 21,000 Urban Aboriginal community members.
Below is a collection of histories and resources of the 14 Nation communities within the VCH boundaries. This information has been put together in collaboration with the nation's Elders, and Knowledge Keepers.
When we give land acknowledgements in Richmond, Vancouver, North Vancouver and Squamish we recognize the three nations who share territories in this region – Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh. Indigenous people from all three nations have been living in the area between Richmond and Squamish for more than 10,000 years and share intricate kinship ties spanning millennia.
The total area of Squamish Nation Traditional Territory is 6,732 square kilometers (673,200 hectares). Squamish territory encompasses Vancouver to Gibsons to the area north of Whistler. The Nation consists of 23 reserves that comprise 0.3% of their traditional territory, allocated under the Indian Act by the federal government.
Squamish lands are laden with mythology, place names and ancient history. Their stories recount catalysts of change from creation stories, first ancestors, megafauna, ice ages and great floods including contact with European settlers.
“Land acknowledgements are important in recognizing Canada's attempt to alienate and marginalize Indigenous people from their homelands to make way for settlers. Indigenous people have been invisible in their own lands, thereby recognizing First Nations' connection to these lands is an act of reconciliation. In committing to this act we can celebrate our shared journey."
ʔəýəÍyətənat Elder Mahara Albrett is an Elder with the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and was a counsellor with the Aboriginal Wellness Program at VCH for more than 15 years until her retirement in 2017. She shares her teaching and wisdom about why it's important to give land acknowledgements and what it means.
“Land acknowledgements are important because they recognize that our territorial homelands are unceded. They give respect to our Nations and the lands which those gathered, are standing upon. If the people of that territory are not acknowledged then it is as if they are being made invisible. Also, in land acknowledgements our true name is given, beyond the names our colonial governments have given to us and our homelands. According to our teachings it's an acknowledgement of the ancestors that have been on the land. Our Knowledge Keeper has said that in pre-colonial times these types of protocols were very important. It would let the hosting nations or villages know that you were coming in peace."
Tsleil-Waututh oral history tells us up to 10,000 Tsleil-Waututh members lived in our traditional territory, before contact with Europeans. Their ancestors' survival depended on cycles of hunting, harvesting and preserving foods, and on trade with their neighbours. The territory of this distinct Coast Salish nation includes Burrard Inlet and the waters draining into it.
Musqueam's ancestors have lived in the Fraser River estuary for thousands of years. Today, portions of Musqueam's traditional territory are called Vancouver, North Vancouver, South Vancouver, Burrard Inlet, New Westminster, Burnaby, and Richmond.Musqueam are traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking people. Today, they are a strong, growing community of over 1,300 members. Many of their members live on a small portion of our traditional territory, known as the Musqueam Indian Reserve, located south of Marine Drive near the mouth of the Fraser River.
*This information may differ from some family's accounts whose oral traditional knowledge may include further information about their history.
When we give land acknowledgements in the Coastal community of care we recognize that we are guests on the land of the First Nations who have lived in these territories since time immemorial. These include the communities of Sechelt, Bella Bella, Bella Coola and Powell River and we recognize the Coast Salish nations whose territories are in this region.
Shíshálh Nation has Aboriginal Title and Aboriginal Rights to their territory, including the lands, waters, and resources that have been theirs since time immemorial. The Sechelt First Nations settlement historically included four main settlements at kalpilin (Pender Harbour), ts'unay (Deserted Bay), xenichen (Jervis Inlet) and tewankw near Porpoise Bay.
Tla'amin Nation are descendants of a rich heritage with a history that stretches back to time immemorial. Their territory spans along the northern part of what is now known as B.C.'s Sunshine Coast- extending down both sides of the Straight of Georgia, covering an area over 400 square kilometers in size. With waterways as the highways, Tla'amin villages were located along the coast and through Desolation Sound.
After more than 20 years of treaty negotiations with the Provincial and Federal Government, Tla'amin achieved a modern treaty agreement on April 5th, 2016. The Agreement includes broad powers in the areas of governance, lands, and health and social matters. Tla'amin Nation is now the largest fee simple landowner in the region.
When we give land acknowledgements in the Sea-to-Sky region, such as the communities of Squamish, Whistler and Pemberton, we recognize that we are guests on the land of the First Nations who have lived in these territories since time immemorial. These include the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations of the Coast Salish Peoples and the N'Quatqua, Samahquam, Skatin and Xa'xsta communities of the St'át'imc First Nation belong to the Interior Salish linguistic group.
Elder Seis'lom is a member of the St'át'imc Nation and he shares his teaching and knowledge of the importance of giving a land acknowledgment: “It was traditional practice whenever members of another Nation came onto your land they would bring gifts to the host Nation. The gift could be a woven blanket and was presented to the chief of the Nation upon arrival. The visiting Nation would then sit in ceremony with the host Nation and listen to whatever members of the host Nation had to say. This ceremony could last for many hours. Then you would share a meal. This was how you knew the visitors came in peace."
The St'át'imc Nation is composed of eleven distinct and self-governing communities. The St'át'imc are the original inhabitants of the territory which extends north to Churn Creek and to South French Bar; northwest to the headwaters of the Bridge River; north and east toward Hat Creek Valley; east to the Big Slide; south to the island on Harrison Lake and west of the Fraser River to the headwaters of the Lillooet River, Ryan River and Black Tusk.. The six northern St'át'imc communities (Sekw'el'was, T'ít'q'et, Tsal'alh, Ts'kw'aylaxw, Xaxli'p, and Xwísten) are also served by the Lillooet Tribal Council, and the five southern Stl'alt'imx communities (Líl'wat, N'Quatqua, Samahquam, Skatin, Xa'xtsa) are served by the Lower Stl'atl'imx Tribal Council. VCH serves these five communities in the region.
As proclaimed by St'át'imc ancestors in the Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe, May 10, 1911: The St'át'imc hold Title, rights and ownership to their territorial lands and resources.
The traditional territory of the St'át'imc people, now known as the Sea-to-Sky corridor is the home of our people and has served as a key route to connecting the interior to the coast. Once known as the Douglas Trail, the road ran from the coast into the territory of the St'át'imc people was built for prospectors going North. Now the Douglas Trail is seldom used but is crucial to reach many of our isolated reservations such as N'Quatqua, Seton, Shalalth, Port Douglas and Skookumchuck. N'Quatqua has a rich history that predates European contact and is steeped in mystery and ancient teachings.
The Lil̓wat7úl have called their territory home since time immemorial. Líl̓wat artifacts dating back to 5,500 BC have been found from the Stein Valley to Bishop-Bridge and all the lands in between. For millennia, the people enjoyed an economy based on trade between other First Nations. And, as today, they valued the importance of family life.
Xa'xtsa is made up of two communities: Port Douglas, which is situated at the northern end of Little Harrison Lake, and Tipella which is on the west side of the Lillooet River. Xa'xtsa is also part of the entire St'atl'imx linguistic group. The name 'Port Douglas' originates from the colonial period, when the town, one of the earliest to be established in mainland British Columbia, was erected adjacent to the present Xa'xtsa community in 1858.
The community of Skatin (or SkookumChuck) is located on the east side of the Lillooet River, on the 19-Mile Post of the old Harrison-Lillooet wagon road (about 35 kilometres from the head of Harrison Lake). Before the arrival of European settlers, this community was considered to be the largest on the lower Lillooet River, comparable in size to the pre-contact village of present-day Mount Currie (or Lilwat'ul).
Samahquam First Nation are a band of the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, a subgroup of the larger St'at'imc people (the In-SHUCK-ch are also referred to as Lower Stl'atl'imx). The Douglas, Skatin and Samahquam communities are related through familial ties as well as culturally and linguistically. They are the southernmost of the four divisions making up the Lillooet ethnographic group.