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Vancouver recognizes unceded territory

Anna Roik

June 29, 2014

It has been a long time coming, but Vancouver City Council now officially acknowledges that it is operating on traditional lands never ceded by the region’s three First Nations: Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh.
Capping off its Year of Recognition, part of a nationwide awareness campaign of residential school history and the experiences of those who lived through them, city council unanimously approved the motion on June 25.
This will likely be nothing more than a symbolic gesture – albeit a historically important one – because actual land titles are under provincial and federal jurisdiction. Vancouver City Council is not in a legal position to negotiate land treaties.
However, council will be working with First Nations leaders to possibly rename areas of the city, and future parks and streets to better reflect the region’s First Nations history. It will also work to determine whether its current welcoming and blessing practices align with First Nations tradition and customs.
Sto:lo Nation official and archaeologist David Schaepe has been quoted as saying that Vancouver city council is setting an example for other municipalities to acknowledge that they also lie on unceded traditional territories. Schaepe hopes that soon all municipalities in the Sto:lo territory of the Fraser Valley will follow suit.
The motion reads:


1.      On National Aboriginal Day, June 21, 2013, the Mayor of the City of Vancouver took the extraordinary step of declaring a Year of Reconciliation, a year-longeffort that seeks to heal from the past and build new relationships between Aboriginal peoples and all Vancouverites, built on a foundation of openness,dignity, understanding and hope;


2.      The process of reconciliation has involved creating space for survivors of colonization to speak the truth about the harms done to themselves, their families and their nations; for the broader community to acknowledge those harms; and for us to find a new pathway forward together;


3.      Underlying all other truths spoken during the Year of Reconciliation is the truth that the modern city of Vancouver was founded on the traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations and that these territories were never ceded through treaty, war or surrender;


4.      The Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations have millennia-old protocols for welcome, blessing and acknowledgements on their territories;


5.      It is essential to the process of reconciliation that this truth is acknowledged and responded to in a form that honours tradition while understanding the ambiguity created by modern institutions that were established without respect for the people or their traditions.


THEREFOREBE IT RESOLVED THAT the City of Vancouver formally acknowledge that the city of Vancouver is on the unceded traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish andTsleil-Waututh First Nations;


FURTHERTHAT Council direct staff to invite representatives from the Musqueam, Squamishand Tsleil-Waututh First Nations to work with the Mayor and Council and Citystaff to develop appropriate protocols for the City of Vancouver to use inconducting City business that respect the traditions of welcome, blessing, andacknowledgement of the territory.

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