Urban Indigenous Community
Vancouver is built on the unceded territory of the Squamish, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh people. The city is home to a diverse population of Indigenous people from across Canada, North America and the world. Around 855 Indigenous language speakers of 11 distinct language families live in the greater urban area.
Vancouver has the third-largest metropolitan population of Indigenous people in Canada, with 61,455 residents self-identifying as Indigenous.
Tsleil-Waututh Nation (TWN) is a community of about 500 members, 300 of whom live along the shores of the Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver. Many in TWN are invested in protecting the environment, the lands and the waters they have always defended and respected.
TWN’s current goals are challenging pipelines, treaty negotiations and community development. A passionate new generation of educators are also paving the way towards fluency in hən̓q̓əmin̓əm, with the current focus on early-age language education. While much remains to be done, there is a great sense of hope and conviction throughout TWN that promises meaningful progress in the years to come.
In a tiny corner of the world is a place where windswept mountains meet the sea. It’s a land of rain and fog, forests, bear and salmon, a land of traditions and ritual, the land of the Skwxw7mesh (Squamish) people.
Today, this place is known as Vancouver, the Sea-to-Sky corridor and Gibsons. It’s people now constitute the largest First Nation in the region, with over 3,600 members, 60 per cent of who live on reserves throughout the nation’s traditional territory.
Despite decades of colonial policies that aimed to eliminate Sḵwx̱wú7mesh snichim, as of 2014 a small pocket of fluent speakers remained. Today, an immersive language program looks to quickly change the tide, graduating 15 new speakers each year.
Stó:lō Nation brings 11 of 25 Stó:lō communities together under one political roof. It serves around 2,640 Stó:lō people living on and off reserve in the lower Fraser Valley.
Stó:lō is the original name for the Fraser River in the upriver dialect of Halq’eméylem. Only a handful of fluent speakers remain — a direct consequence of nearby residential schools.
Stó:lō people remain intimately connected to their language through cultural practices and stories of sxwōxwiyám, a time of origin and transformation. For decades, elders and community members have led efforts to revitalize Halq’eméylem, including immersion groups for teachers and curriculum development for K-12 and university classrooms.
The road towards fluency is long and continues today.
Stó:lō Tribal Council
Stó:lō Tribal Council is the governing body of eight communities in the Stó:lō territory: Shxw’ow’hamel, Seabird, Cheam, Chawathil, KwawKwawApilt, Scowlitz, Soowahlie and Kwantlen. The council separated from Stó:lō Nation in 2005 and advocates at both the provincial and federal levels on behalf of its members.
The Stó:lō are known as “people of the river” because of their cultural ties to the Fraser River. The traditional language of the Stó:lō people is upriver Halq’eméylem, a Salishan dialect. There are few fluent speakers remaining, but many language revitalization efforts are underway.
The tribal office is located in the council’s largest community, Seabird Island.
British Columbia is home to 60 per cent of all Indigenous languages spoken in Canada. There are 34 languages and 6,000 total speakers at varying levels of fluency. Canada’s colonial history has caused inter-generational loss of language.
Today, fluency is rare.
Only four per cent of Indigenous language speakers are fluent, about nine per cent are semi-fluent, and nine per cent are language learners, according to a 2014 First Peoples Cultural Council report. As a result the provincial government recently allocated $50 million of the 2018 budget toward Indigenous language revitalization.