Vancouver council declares city on unceded land
Members of the Squamish First Nation paddle past Vancouver. The nation is one of three named by city council in a new motion that says the city was built on 'unceded' territory. (REUTERS)
Vancouver city council formally acknowledged Wednesday that the land on which the city is built actually belongs to three local First Nations.
But landowners shouldn’t worry, according to Mayor Gregor Robertson.
The move, he said, is largely symbolic, albeit an “important gesture.”
“We are formally acknowledging that we are on the unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. There was never any treaty with these nations … At this point, the city is acknowledging that fact.”
When it comes to actual land titles, he said, that’s the jurisdiction of the provincial and federal governments.
The motion, which passed unanimously Wednesday, also calls for city staff to develop a set of aboriginal protocols to be used when welcoming people to council, city hall and city events.
Although the city follows some aboriginal welcoming and blessing practices now, they might be doing it all wrong.
“We want to make sure we’ve done the appropriate steps with the three local First Nations to understand exactly what should be said according to their traditions and customs,” Robertson said. “We just want to make sure we’re observing those correctly and bringing them into the modern context as well.”
Up next: potentially renaming parts of the city to better reflect the aboriginal history of Vancouver. During the meeting, Robertson called it a “peculiar thing” that many of the city’s streets and parks were named for people who were here only a short time.
“We want to make sure, because there are three First Nations, that they all agree on what a historical name should be, so there’s work for all parties to do resolving that,” Robertson said, adding much of the traditional First Nations names will be applied to new streets and new parks. “Hopefully, it brings back some of the original names of places, and also respecting that we call things by names right now. We want to find the balance there.”