Daniel Francis

Reading the National Narrative

Village in the City

Feb 17, 2017


Often when one is out walking in the city one encounters sites where history is buried not so far beneath the surface, sites of significance to First Nations people and therefore, usually, sites of injustice.

For example. I took this photograph last weekend on the False Creek seawall not far from Granville Island. One hundred and fifty years ago this beachfront was a village site known as Snauq, or Sun'ahk, home to sixty or seventy Squamish people. The people had settled there to take advantage of the plentiful seafood resources in False Creek.

The Squamish received a reserve at the site in 1876 but as Vancouver spread southward, the white majority decided that the land was far too valuable to leave in the hands of its owners. The government began to apply pressure on the residents to leave and they finally agreed to sell. On April 10, 1913, a scow arrived to carry away the twenty or so families and their belongings. The people went to live at other local reserves and the buildings of Snauq were torched. The last First Nations village within the then city limits was gone.

Afterward the provincial attorney-general boasted that he had obtained the land for much less than it was worth. Over the years the reserve became the site of Vanier Park and the Vancouver Museum. But it would be up to future generations to pay for the attorney-general's double-dealing. In 1977 the Squamish Nation began legal proceedings to win compensation and thirteen years later the Squamish accepted a $92.5 million dollar settlement from the federal government.

The village site, underneath the south end of the Burrard Street Bridge, is now marked by this Welcome Figure carved by Darren Yelton and erected in 2006.