Historic Timeline

Europeans took this land over and over and over, until we were cornered in this little spot. It’s been decimating in terms of access to territory. A lot of restrictions were enforced through the Indian Act and through being a part of the City of Vancouver without choice, without consultation. That’s been pretty traumatic for the community. ~ Leona Sparrow, 2014

This timeline acts as a visual representation of time. It focuses specifically on the legal and political forces that have affected and continue to affect Musqueam as a community and one of our many village sites, c̓əsnaʔəm.

Big Idea:

Policies and politics play a critical and complicated role in our lives as Musqueam people.



Time immemorial

χe:l’s travels

“People were made in the very beginning but they were not altogether right. Only some were right. But then the one called χe:l’s arrived, and he took pity on the people. After that, people everywhere became right…Many were turned to stone. Many were turned into some kind of animal or bird. There were those who became fishes.”

—mən̓eʔɬ James Point, 1968

Thousands of years ago

The Fraser Delta

Over millennia, as sediments were carried down the river, the Fraser Delta transformed. Around 4000 years ago, c̓əsnaʔəm was located at the river’s mouth. It was connected to an extensive network of villages in our rich coastal territory.

It was said to be only water

k̓ʷəwɬ hiθəɬ c̓twaʔ wəɬ k̓ʷin c̓twaʔ kʷs nec̓əwəc meqeʔ, sχʷəχʷəyems kʷθə siyal̕əxʷeʔəɬ tiʔinə ɬeq̓əməx wəqaʔəɬ c̓ə ʔal̕, mək̓ʷ ʔəncə wəqaʔ ʔal̕. ʔəwəteʔ tə ʔi n̓a ʔi swiw̓əl̕ ʔi ʔə tə n̓a weyəl kʷikʷəxtəm k̓ʷə q̓ʷeyaʔχʷ, sp̓ələk̓ʷəqs, xʷayqəθən. ʔəwəteʔ wəqaʔəɬ c̓ə ʔal̕ mək̓ʷ. wənay tə n̓a:nə scəw̓aθən šxʷniʔs tə kʷikʷəxtəm k̓ʷə smaq̓ʷəc ƛ̓cesəɬ.

“Long ago, probably many hundreds of years ago, according to the stories of the old people, this flat country was only water, everywhere just water. There were none of these places that appear today called Garry Point, Terra Nova, and Sea Island. There were none. It was said to be only water.”

—mən̓eʔɬ James Point


sƛ̓eləqəm, wə n̓an ʔəw k̓ʷən̓k̓ʷən̓ tə sxiʔiw̓s
Smallpox was fiercely catching

Smallpox reached c̓əsnaʔəm and the Northwest Coast through Indigenous trade routes, shortly before the Europeans’ arrival. It and other diseases over the next century led to catastrophic loss of life.

m̓i tecəl kʷθə xʷənitəm
The white people arrived

In 1791 and 1792, our leaders greeted the first Europeans to enter our territory. With the Spanish, we traded food and a canoe for copper and iron. In 1827, the Hudson’s Bay Company established Fort Langley on the Fraser River, leading to increased trade with non-Aboriginal newcomers.


m̓i tecəl kʷθə xʷənitəm
c̓əsnaʔəm was preempted

Many newcomers established farms along our rich lands of the Fraser River. George Garypie, who was married to a Musqueam woman named Catherine, preempted land at c̓əsnaʔəm in 1865. The new settlement became known as Eburne.

Colony of British Columbia

The Fraser River gold rush brought so many settlers to our territory and the territories of our neighbours that in 1858 the British declared the mainland a colony. Under colonial policy, settlers could acquire 160-acre preemptions of land to farm. Colonial officials established small Indian reserves at some, but not all, of our ancestral villages.


The town of Eburne

As the town of Eburne became an important commercial centre, road building and development impacted c̓əsnaʔəm. By the late 1800s, our village became well known to pothunters as a source of “Indian curios.” c̓əsnaʔəm and other shell middens in the area were mined for agricultural fertilizer and for paving roads. Our heritage and our ancestors’ remains were spread over the city.

The Indian Act

When British Columbia entered Confederation in 1871, Aboriginal people were placed under federal jurisdiction. By 1876, the Indian Act legislated our daily lives. In an attempt to assimilate Aboriginal people to Christian Canadian society, the government sent our children to Indian residential schools. Despite these destructive policies, our culture and society persisted.


Our ancestors and belongings were taken to New York City

Between 1897 and 1900, archaeologist Harlan I. Smith, of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, visited c̓əsnaʔəm and Musqueam. He collected our belongings and ancestors for the museum’s displays and research.

Potlatch ban

In 1884, the Canadian government amended the Indian Act to ban our ceremonies. Around this time, international museums “salvaged” our belongings and those of other Northwest Coast communities. These collectors mistakenly thought we were a vanishing people.


“When I want to go fishing, the two parties are also holding on to each end of my boat—There are initials and numbers on the bow and initials and numbers on the stern, and I know that I own the water…When I want to catch fish for my living I don’t want to be interfered with at all.”

— Chief Johnny χʷəyχʷayələq.

Royal Commission on Indian Affairs

In 1913, the federal and provincial governments established a commission to finalize the acreage of Indian reserve lands. The commissioners visited First Nations throughout British Columbia. In our testimonies, we asserted continuing jurisdiction over our traditional territories and rejected legislative control of our daily lives.


Vancouver City Museum and the Great Fraser Midden

From 1927 to 1933, the Vancouver City Museum (now the Museum of Vancouver) removed our ancestors and belongings from c̓əsnaʔəm for their displays. The museum presented this material to show that Vancouver was so old it rivalled major European city’s histories of human settlement. While celebrating Vancouver’s ancient past, the museum developed narratives that disassociated us from this history.

More infringements of our rights

The government amended the Indian Act in 1927 making it illegal for us to hire lawyers and hold meetings to pursue land claims. Despite this injustice, First Nations worked together to form the Native Brotherhood of British Columbia and other political organizations to assert our Aboriginal rights.


Archaeology at the Marpole Midden

Urban development continued to threaten c̓əsnaʔəm. To salvage the site and its contents, Charles E. Borden excavated in the 1940s and 1950s. He took our heritage and ancestors to the University of British Columbia for study.

Indian Act reforms

Aboriginal people pushed to have the discriminatory sections of the Indian Act repealed. In 1951, the potlatch ban and restrictions on hiring lawyers were lifted. The government’s 1969 White Paper proposed abolishing the Indian Act and removing our distinct legal status. Opposition to this proposal led to the formation of national Aboriginal political organizations.

Our leaders permitted archaeological excavations on the Musqueam reserve. They wanted Musqueam children to learn more about our ancestors.


More excavating

In the 1970s, the University of British Columbia, Langara College, Simon Fraser University and the Museum of Vancouver conducted archaeological excavations at c̓əsnaʔəm.

The Musqueam Declaration

In the Calder case (1973), the Supreme Court of Canada recognized that Aboriginal title existed. Calder led to a new federal policy that allowed for the negotiation of comprehensive land claims.


Safeguarding c̓əsnaʔəm

In 1991, we purchased the Fraser Arms Hotel, built over part of c̓əsnaʔəm, to protect our ancient home.

Musqueam at the Supreme Court of Canada

The 1982 Canadian Constitution affirms our Aboriginal rights. We have won two major cases in the Supreme Court of Canada. In the Guerin case (1984), the court established that the Canadian government has a fiduciary duty to act in our best interests. In the Sparrow case (1990), our Aboriginal fishing rights were affirmed.


xixáʔɬəm̓ət kʷθə syəw̓en̓əɬ ct
We are protecting our ancestors

In 2012, our ancestors, including infants, were disturbed when work began on a condominium development. We held vigil for over 200 days, which succeeded in stopping the development. Following negotiations with the interested parties, we purchased this portion of c̓əsnaʔəm. The future of the remainder of c̓əsnaʔəm is uncertain.