Billboard was Site of Squamish Village

Posted by Daniel on Dec 3, 2009 - 3 comments

The Squamish have erected the first of their controversial electronic billboards at the south end of the Burrard Bridge in Vancouver and I'm thinking not many Vancouverites know the significance of this particular location.

When Europeans first entered False Creek the Squamish were already living there, at a village site tucked in behind Kits Point that came to be known as Snauq, or Sun'ahk. In 1870 the colonial government granted the Squamish a reserve there, a grant that was enlarged to take in most of the point in 1877.

However, as the city expanded across False Creek from downtown, white residents cast covetous eyes on what became known as the Kitsilano Reserve and prior to World War One the Squamish families living there were paid to remove themselves. Various developments occurred on the land, including the construction of the Burrard St. Bridge, which opened in 1932. The south end of the bridge, site of the billboard, was previously the site of the village longhouse.

The 1913 transaction was never formalized or approved and after decades of negotiations and legal battles the Squamish in 2000 accepted a $92.5 million dollar settlement with the federal government.

Drivers might wish to contemplate this history of dispossession as they grumble about the commercial messages that now obscure the view from the bridge.