June kicks off the start of Indigenous History Month in Canada, with National Indigenous People’s Day on the 21st. Indigenous people have a deep history in the neighborhood of Kitsilano, with Vancouver being the original territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. 

Sen̓ áḵw was once a Coast Salish village. However, in the late 1860s early 1870s under the Indian Act, only 34 hectares were designated to the Coast Salish nation. The label Kitsilano Reservation was decided and maintained after Canadian Pacific Railway began pursuing residential developments. This was a reference to the chief X̱ats’alanexw, which was anglicized to August Jack Khatsahlano. The Indian Act would be further amended, and by 1913 all of this reserve land was seized. The name Khatsahlano is still honored in the annual Khatsahlano festival. 

Stuart Mackinnon, Vancouver Park board chair, notes that meaningful acknowledgment of Indigenous place names is important. These locations were often named for Europeans after they spent minimal time on the territory without appreciating or learning from it, whilst there were already Indigenous language names for the land. Since 2018 Mackinnon has been leading a motion to change or add to the names of Vancouver parks and beaches to represent their Indigenous heritage. 

Difficulties in the project include the difference in the Squamish and Musqueam languages in regard to overlapping territory, as well as their differences from the English language. Although Major James Matthews attempted to map the Indigenous names of Vancouver sites in the 1930s, these reflected anglicisms. To date, the Coast Salish Nations have been developing their own map, found on their respective websites, with updated spelling and pronunciation guides. 

Squamish First Nation Councillor and spokesperson Swxíxwtn or Wilson Williams responded that “this is a great step in recognizing and righting the wrongs of the past”. He hopes that increased representation enriches the lessons from the land, including the First People’s stories, legends and language. 

Additional acts of reconciliation include the renaming of Trutch Street. After a unanimous decision by the City of Vancouver in the Summer of 2021, on September 30th, 2022 the Musqueam nation gifted a new name to Kitsilano street. The street is to be called šxʷməθkʷəy̓əmasəm, a word from in the hən̓ q̓ əmin̓ əm̓ language. Trutch was an English colonizer who was the first Lieutenant Governor of B.C. and B.C.’s Chief Commissioner of Land and Works. He actively denied Indigenous people their rights and contributed to the reduction in the size of reservation land. Sʔəyəɬəq or Larry Grant, manager of the Musqueam language and culture department described the significance as presenting reconciliation as more than just recognizing the legacy of residential schools.

Sophia is a high school student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School in the IB program and is taking a class in Contemporary Indigenous Studies. 

Last modified: June 12, 2023

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