The Tsleil-Waututh community is nestled on Vancouver’s north shore overlooking the Burrard Inlet. The “people of the inlet” number just over 500 — about half of whom live on their north shore reserve. The Nation has made economic development a priority and manages several successful businesses including a wind-powered turbine company, an eco-tourism venture and has leased land for housing development. Tsleil-Waututh Nation is also a strong advocate for the environment. They embrace green energy initiatives in their community and are vocal in opposing the Kinder Morgan trans-mountain pipeline via their Sacred Trust initiative.
Tsawwassen First Nation (TFN) owns 6.24 square kilometers of land on B.C.’s south coast, surrounded by the city of Delta. With a landmark treaty Tsawwassen became the first self-governing urban Indigenous community in B.C. with ownership of their land, operating outside of the Indian Act. The small community of 430 people is entwined with surrounding municipalities; in fact about half of Tsawwassen members do not live on TFN land. The newly formed government has focused on economic projects such as a mega-mall set to open in fall 2016.
URBAN INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY
Metro Vancouver is home to the third largest urban Indigenous population in all of Canada. More than 40,000 First Nations, Métis and Inuit people live here, making up 2.3 per cent of all citizens. Some descend from the peoples who have lived on the land since time immemorial, while others relocated relatively recently. The Indigenous population in Metro Vancouver is not a monolith, but a number of intertwined communities where traditions are strong, cultures are always mixing and change is constant.
Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside has the highest proportion of Indigenous people in the city at 31%. This urban population is made up of people originating from Indigenous communities all across the country. The Downtown Eastside is located on the traditional and unceded lands of the Coast Salish peoples. While there are high rates of poverty, homelessness and addiction in the area, there is also a high concentration of support services and a strong sense of community among residents. The neighbourhood’s population is growing faster than Vancouver as a whole, which has raised concerns about gentrification and affordability.
The Squamish Nation or Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw has a rich history and culture that continues to thrive today. The Squamish are a Coast Salish people who largely reside on urban reserves. The nation is made up of 16 united tribes with nine communities from North Vancouver to northern Howe Sound. They are a leader in First Nations economic development with many successful businesses and leases. There are currently around 4000 registered members in the nation.
The Fraser Valley is the historic gateway to the coast and home of the Stó:lō, “People of the River.” The Stó:lō controlled the Fraser River with their technology, fishing and strategic use of the surrounding forest – earning them a dominant position in the region. The population of the Stó:lō Nation is now around 2,000, a shadow of their pre-contact population after recovering from Smallpox decimation. Treaty negotiations and fragmentation of the reserve system have contributed to political divisions – but the Stó:lō are as resourceful as they are diverse. Their members are martial artists, botanists, teachers, doctors and artists.
STO:LO TRIBAL COUNCIL
The Sto:lo Tribal Council (STC) is the governing body for eight First Nations communities that dot the banks and tributaries of the Fraser River, from Hope to Fort Langley: Shxw’ow’hamel, Seabird, Cheam, Chawathil, KwawKwawApilt, Scowlitz, Soowahlie and Kwantlen. The council was created in 2005 when the Sto:lo Nation underwent an internal reorganization. Today, the STC serves its member communities advocating for their health, social development, education, economic development, rights and justice.