Skip to Main Content

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam)

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm: Land Beneath Our Feet

The University of British Columbia is located on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people. This research guide provides resources and research strategies for deepening knowledge of this relationship and of Musqueam. 

Musqueam: An Introduction

"We are the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking Musqueam people, part of the broader cultural group known as the Central Coast Salish. We have lived here in our territory for over 9,000 years. Our ancestors moved throughout our traditional territory using the resources the land provided for fishing, hunting, trapping, gathering food and medicines, and to maintain their livelihood. For millennia, Musqueam has maintained strong cultural values and practices tied to the lands and waters of our territory. Our community elders continue to pass on our teachings and history to our youth to keep our culture and traditions strong. Our deep connection to our lands and waters is reflected in our language, our oral histories, our belongings, and our ceremonies. This has always been our way. Today, we are a thriving community of over 1,300 members. Musqueam’s traditional and unceded territory encompasses much of what is now known as the Lower Mainland. About half of our community members live on a very small portion of our traditional territory in our village of xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), located south of Northwest Marine Drive near the mouth of the North Arm of the Fraser River. Other community members live off-reserve in other parts of the Lower Mainland, and beyond."

- From xʷməθkʷəy̓əm: qʷi:l̕qʷəl̕ ʔə kʷθə snəw̓eyəɬ ct, Musqueam: giving information about our teachings

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ / Musqueam Language

"Language is the truest identifier of who you are and where you come from." sʔəyəɬəq—Larry Grant, 2014

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (hun-kh-uh-mee-num) is the Musqueam language. It is one of three distinct dialects of Halkomelem, which includes Hul'qumi'num (island), Halq’eméylem (upriver), and hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (downriver). 

In the 1970’s, the Musqueam community began their journey towards language revitalization, and formally adopted the North American Phonetic Alphabet (NAPA). NAPA allows the sounds of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ to be more accurately conveyed in writing. The symbols that may be unfamiliar to you, including ə, q̓, θ, xʷ, and more have corresponding phonetics that you can learn in order to pronounce written hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓. 

hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ Orthography and Pronunciation Guide
Learn the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ alphabet
Musqueam Teaching Kit: xʷʔəw̓yaθənəq / Teaching Language

(From the Musqueam Teaching Kit)

In 1997, Musqueam partnered with UBC to promote the development and use of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ through collaborative research initiatives. The First Nations and Endangered Languages (FNEL) program at UBC offers hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ classes at different times throughout the year. These courses are attended by both UBC and Musqueam students.

Key Resources:

tə šxʷʔam̓əts tə šxʷməθkʷəy̓əm / Musqueam territory

Map from the Musqueam Declaration (1976)

“Musqueam traditional territory is the area that we’ve lived off of, we’ve fished, we’ve hunted, we gathered, and it’s something that we’ve never given away. It’s something that we still hold and we still believe is our right. We still hold title over the lands, which encompass what is now called Greater Vancouver.” c̓aləχʷəlenəxʷ—Wade Grant, 2014

"The map, tə šxʷʔam̓əts tə šxʷməθkʷəy̓əm—Musqueam’s Ancestral Territory, is a visual representation of our core territory. We have always been at the mouth of the stal̕əw̓ (Fraser River). Our hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ place names reflect the landscape and our histories and describe the geographical changes that have happened over thousands of years. This is evidence that we have always been here." from xʷməθkʷəy̓əm: qʷi:l̕qʷəl̕ ʔə kʷθə snəw̓eyəɬ / Musqueam: giving information about our teachings

Musqueam Place Names Map
  • Explore Musqueam place names, including places in Point Grey, UBC, Kitsilano, and beyond.
Chapter Four: tə šxʷʔam̓əts tə šxʷməθkʷəy̓əm / Musqueam’s Ancestral Territory
  • Chapter Four of the Musqueam Teaching Kit.

The Musqueam Nation did not sign a historic treaty (an agreement to share land) with settlers, which is why in land acknowledgements, you will often hear the territory acknowledged as "unceded." Many other British Columbia First Nations did not sign treaties with settlers. BC has a 'modern treaty process', which seeks to engage individual BC First Nations in a treaty process in the present day. 

You can learn more about treaties in our Treaty research guide

"Traditionally we don't think of it as Pacific Spirit Park. It's Musqueam land. It's a Musqueam village site. We occupy it. We live there. We never moved from there. We were relocated to reserve allotments from all these areas and pushed into the 400 acres that we have."

- Gail Sparrow, quoted in Nair, R. (21 April 2019), 'We're still here': Musqueam elder reflects 30 years after Pacific Spirit Park protest. 

In 1984, Musqueam submitted a land claim to the area of the university's Endowment Lands which would become 'Pacific Spirit Park'. But three years later, in 1989, the park was created amidst protests from Musqueam community members.

In 2008, 20 hectares of Pacific Spirit Park and parts of the university golf course were returned to Musqueam through a land settlement with the province. 

Learn more:

cə̓snaʔəm, the city before the city by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (2017).

  • Hear the voices of Musqueam First Nation, and learn about their living culture and ongoing relationship with their ancestral and unceded territory now known as Metro Vancouver.

tə sʔa:nɬ syəθəs - Our History

tə sʔa:nɬ syəθəs - Our History

Musqueam history stretches back to time immemorial. It's important to learn about Musqueam culture and history from Musqueam, and not from third parties.

Musqueam Historic Timeline
  • 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 the many Musqueam village sites, c̓əsnaʔəm.
Musqueam's Story
  • Learn about Musqueam history and culture, published online by Musqueam First Nation.
Indigenous Traditional Governance Research Guide: Musqueam
  • Research guide created by X̱wi7x̱wa exploring Musqueam traditional governance.
Musqueam: A Living Culture
  • By Musqueam First Nation. Includes Musqueam history, stories, and culture.
The Musqueam Declaration

On June 10, 1976, Musqueam released the Musqueam Declaration, which describes Musqueam territory, and affirms the rights and title of Musqueam to their territory.

"Our ancestors aboriginal right and our aboriginal right, is to live upon and travel over our aboriginal lands, seas and waters without foreign control or restriction; to utilize, trade, and consume all the resources and products of those lands, waters and seas. It is our right to govern ourselves and our communities, to up-hold and determine our own customs, beliefs, and laws. Neither we nor our ancestors have ever given up, extinguished or diminished our aboriginal rights and title by treaty or agreement with any foreign government or power... We announce our intent to establish control over our own communities and our own resources in order to control, determine, and guarantee our future."

From the 1940s to the 1960s, Farmers from Guangdong, China, cultivated farms on the flatlands along the Fraser River on Musqueam land. At the time, non-Indigenous men were not allowed to be around Indigenous women on reserve, but relationships and interactions occurred anyway. 

"What came out a lot is that different relationships were formed that allowed both the Chinese and Musqueam to thrive as unique peoples, especially during the early 20th century when these two segregated communities were not accepted by the greater society. There was a relationship of respect, so respecting different cultures, different practices." - Sarah Ling, quoted in "Chinese garden on Musqueam land brought cultures together", by Cheryl Rossi for the Vancouver Courier (2013).

Below are resources to learn more about this history.

All Our Father's Relations

(2016). The story of the Grant siblings who journey from Vancouver to China in an attempt to rediscover their father's roots and better understand his fractured relationship with their Musqueam mother. The film features siblings Helen Callbreath, Gordon Grant, Larry Grant, and Howard E. Grant, who are elders from the Musqueam Nation with Chinese ancestry. The siblings reflect on their experiences growing up on the Chinese farms at Musqueam and in Vancouver's Chinatown, and the impact of discriminatory government legislation on their lives. 

Produced and directed by Sarah Ling and Alejandro Yoshizawa ; co-produced by Jordan Paterson, a Right Relations Production.

Respect, reciprocity, and right relations : learning and co-producing stories about the Chinese market gardens at Musqueam

By Sarah Wai Yee Ling Ling. "This thesis demonstrates the significance of the Chinese market gardens that once populated the Musqueam reserve, underscoring the respectful and reciprocal relationships that were formed historically." 

Featured Resources

Indigenous Foundations: Musqueam Legal History Digital Media Archive

A collection of digitized newspaper clippings from the mainstream press about Musqueam's precedent-setting legal battles. Indigenous Foundations also highlights the Guerin Case and the Sparrow Case.

For Indigenous press, try searching within Indigenous newspapers, such as Windspeaker or Kahtou News, through the CBCA Complete database.

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm: qʷi:l̕qʷəl̕ ʔə kʷθə snəw̓eyəɬ ct
Musqueam: giving information about our teachings

This teaching resource comes out of a collaboration between Musqueam and the Museum of Anthropology. Via an interactive website, it provides the following resources:

  • Language, showcasing the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ alphabet
  • Stories, which provides access to a collection of digital storybooks, written for the purpose of language learning
  • Community Profiles, which provide the opportunity to learn about Musqueam directly from Musqueam community members
  • Video Gallery, which hosts community videos featuring Musqueam community members discussing issues of importance to our people
  • Delta Animation
  • Historic Timeline, focusing 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
  • Teacher Resources, available for free in PDF format