Stanley Park History Coast Salish Land

Archaeological evidence suggests a human presence in the park dating back more than 3,000 years. The area is the traditional territory of different coastal indigenous peoples. From the Burrard Inlet and Howe Sound regions, Squamish Nation had a large village in the park. From the lower Fraser River area, Musqueam Nation used its natural resources.

Where Lumberman’s Arch is now, there once was a large village called Whoi Whoi, or Xwayxway, roughly meaning place of masks. One longhouse, built from cedar poles and slabs, was measured at 200 feet (61 m) long by 60 feet (18 m) wide. These houses were occupied by large extended families living in different quadrants of the house. The larger houses were used for ceremonial potlatchs where a host would invite guests to witness and participate in ceremonies and the giving away of property.

Another settlement was further west along the same shore. This place was called Chaythoos, meaning high bank. The site of Chaythoos is noted on a brass plaque placed on the lowlands east of Prospect Point commemorating the park’s centennial.

Both sites were occupied in 1888, when some residents were forcefully removed to allow a road to be constructed around the park, and their midden was used for construction material.

A painting of ships used in George Vancouver’s exploration of the west coast of North America in his 1791-95 expedition.

The popular landmark Siwash Rock, located near present-day Third Beach, was once called Slahkayulsh meaning he is standing up. In the oral history, a fisherman was transformed into this rock by three powerful brothers as punishment for his immorality.

In 2010, the chief of the Squamish Nation proposed renaming Stanley Park as Xwayxway Park after the large village once located in the area.

European exploration

The first European explorations of the peninsula occurred with Spanish Captain José María Narváez (1791) and British Captain George Vancouver (1792).

In A Voyage of Discovery, Vancouver describes the area as “an island … with a smaller island [Deadman’s Island] lying before it,” suggesting that it was originally surrounded by water, at least at high tide.

Captain Vancouver also wrote about meeting the people living there:

Here we were met by about fifty in canoes, who conducted themselves with great decorum and civility, presenting us with several fish cooked and undressed of a sort resembling smelt. These good people, finding we were inclined to make some return for their hospitality, showed much understanding in preferring iron to copper.

An 1897 settlement in Stanley Park. The centre house is the traditional longhouse style of the Squamish people.

According to historians, the natives probably first saw Captain Vancouver’s ship from Chaythoos, a location in the future park that in today’s terms lay just east of the Lions Gate Bridge (or First Narrows Bridge as it is sometimes called). Speaking about this event later in a conversation with archivist Major Matthews, Andy Paull, whose family lived in the area, confirms the account given by Captain Vancouver:

As Vancouver came through the First Narrows, the in their canoes threw these feathers in great handfuls before him. They would of course rise in the air, drift along, and fall to the surface of the water, where they would rest for quite a time. It must have been a pretty scene, and duly impressed Captain Vancouver, for he speaks most highly of the reception he was accorded.

No significant contact with inhabitants in the area was recorded for decades, until around the time of the Crimean War (1853–56). British admirals arranged with Chief Joe Capilano that if there was an invasion, the British would defend the south shore of Burrard Inlet and the Squamish would defend the north. The British gave him and his men 60 muskets. Although the attack anticipated by the British never came, the guns were used by the Squamish to repel an attack by an indigenous raid from the Euclataws. Stanley Park was not attacked, but this was when it started to be thought of as a strategic military position.

Source From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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