Did you know that with more than 200 distinct First Nations, British Columbia is the most diverse province in Canada for Indigenous Peoples? 95% of the province, including Vancouver, is on unceded traditional First Nations territory. Unceded means that First Nations people never gave up or legally signed away their lands to the Crown or to Canada. Vancouver is located on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations.
The city has a rich Indigenous history and heritage. Towering totem poles, cultural centres, museums and contemporary art galleries can be found all over the city and keep ancient traditions and stories alive.
Since June is National Indigenous History Month, we want to invite you to educate yourself and experience more of Vancouver’s deep-rooted history. Here are some activities you can do this month to learn more about the Indigenous History in Vancouver:
Learn about First Nations in Vancouver
Visit Stanley Park
Now that summer weather is here, Stanley Park is the perfect destination to learn more about Indigenous culture in Vancouver! Stanley Park is the ancestral home of the Coast Salish people.
Here you can visit the nine totem poles at Brockton Point, BC’s most visited tourist attraction. The collection was started in the 1920’s and the most recent totem pole was added in 2009. You can also find three beautifully carved red cedar portals that welcome visitors to the Brockton Point Visitor Centre and to the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people.
Photo Credit: Sharonflynn / Wikimedia Commons
Guided Tours in Stanley Park
If you want to learn more about the park’s history and Indigenous practices you can join one of the Indigenous guided tours of Stanley Park: Talking Trees and Spoken Treasures. Guided by a local First Nations cultural ambassador, you can learn about local plants that were harvested by Coast Salish people for food, medicine and other purposes like for building materials or dyes. You will also learn about Indigenous ecological practices, ancient and contemporary history, stories and legends. Both tours are currently offered and run with Covid-19 safety protocols.
Museum of Anthropology at UBC
The Museum of Anthropology (MOA) is Canada’s largest teaching museum and is home to more than 535,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects from around the world. 7,100 of those are from BC’s First Nations.
The museum showcases a large collection of First Nations art and artifacts such as hunting tools, masks, figurines and hand-woven baskets. The exhibitions and programs emphasize artistic diversity and the links between art, community and the contemporary social and political context in which youth, artists and communities are communicating their cultural traditions. You can take a guided tour through the museum and learn about indigenous cultures throughout North America.
6393 NW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z2 / moa.ubc.ca
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park
Photo Credits: capbridge.com
Capilano Suspension Bridge is one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist attractions. You can walk the 137m long Suspension Bridge above the Capilano River and enjoy breathtaking views of the Pacific Northwest rainforest. Not many people know that the park is rooted in Indigenous history. The name “Capilano” comes from the Squamish nation word “Kia’palano”, which means beautiful river. The park also features a Kia’palano exhibition as well as a collection of colourful totem poles.
3735 Capilano Rd, North Vancouver, BC V7R 4J1 / capbridge.com
There are plenty of galleries in Vancouver that showcase Indigenous artwork. One of the most famous galleries is the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, located in downtown Vancouver. Bill Reid was a master goldsmith, carver, sculptor, writer and spokesman and was well known for his monumental artwork that infused Haida traditions with a modern aesthetic. The gallery features Reid’s artwork as well as the work of up-and-coming contemporary First Nations artists.
639 Hornby St, Vancouver, BC V6C 2G3
Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro
If you’d like to experience Indigenous cuisine, you can visit the First Nations restaurant Salmon n’ Bannock. It showcases Aboriginal cuisine with a variety of nationwide inspired culinary delights using fresh seasonal ingredients. The team is composed of members of different Nations. The bistro also features First Nations art from upcoming artists.
7 – 1128 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6H 1G5 / salmonandbannock.net
Virtual Events for National Indigenous History Month 2021
A TASTING OF INDIGENOUS CULTURES (free and virtual event on June 15 @ 2 PM)
An immersive exploration of Indigenous cuisine and wine in BC. Viewers will meet Paul Natrall, a second-generation chef and owner of Mr. Bannock food truck, and Ryan Widdup of the Okanagan’s picturesque Indigenous World Winery. Learn about Indigenous wines and how to make bannock (a type of bread) at home.
CELEBRATING LIVING INDIGENOUS ARTS & CULTURE (free and virtual event on June 17 @ 2 PM)
Travel virtually to Alert Bay where you’ll learn about the history and cultural significance of Potlatches as well as the artistic practices of cedar weaving, song and dance. Viewers will then be transported to the remote Great Bear Rainforest for fascinating storytelling and wildlife viewing.
HONOURING WELLNESS (free and virtual event on June 22 @ 2 PM)
Restore your spirit through an exploration of Indigenous wellness rituals. Join a smudging ceremony and learn about how nature and sustainability, through an Indigenous worldview, contribute to social wellbeing. Join this interactive workshop as presenters will share their ancestral knowledge.
Event Link: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/national-indigenous-history-month-honouring-wellness-tickets-154049535307
Follow @gcindigenous on Instagram. This is the official Government of Canada account for & about First Nations, Inuit and Métis in Canada.