First Nations in Vancouver
With its lush, coastal rainforests and aboriginal heritage, Vancouver is a place of lore, legend and deep- rooted history. First Nations culture is prevalent throughout the city, keeping ancient traditions and stories alive with vibrantly coloured totem poles, cultural centres, museums and contemporary art galleries. Experience the city’s rich First Nations history and heritage with these outdoor excursions and cultural adventures.
As Canada’s largest teaching museum, the UBC Museum of Anthropology houses more than 535,000 ethnographic and archaeological objects from around the world, 7,100 of which are from B.C.’s First Nations. Take a guided tour through the museum and learn about aboriginal cultures throughout North America, while viewing artifacts such as hunting tools, masks, hand-carved figurines and an array of intricate, hand-woven baskets. The MOA also features contemporary First Nations artwork and totem poles created by renowned artists such as Bill Reid and Doug Cranmer.
To learn about Squamish and Lil’wat Aboriginal people, make the two-hour drive up to Whistler, B.C., where the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre celebrates the partnership between these two First Nations groups. Take a guided or self-guided tour through the museum and contemporary galleries, watch traditional dances and songs, and walk through two outdoor dwellings: the cedar Squamish longhouse and the Lil’wat Istken, an underground pit dwelling with a moss roof.
From colourfully painted totem poles to intricate stone carvings, First Nations artwork is readily visible in galleries throughout the city. To see some of these iconic cultural pieces, start at the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, located in downtown Vancouver. Unsurprisingly, the gallery displays Reid’s bronze sculptures, gold and silver jewellery, but also exhibits dedicated to up-and-coming and contemporary First Nations artists too. Don’t miss the full-scale totem pole carved by James Hart, in celebration of Reid.
To see and purchase coastal artwork and jewellery such as cedar ceremonial masks, whalebone carvings and silver bracelets created by local First Nations artists, visit one of the many aboriginal art galleries.
During the summer months, Vancouver is the perfect city to head outdoors and enjoy the warm weather, the natural landscape and authentic First Nations experiences. Escape to the woodland setting of Stanley Park, where you can see towering totem poles, including the ninth and most recent totem pole, carved by Robert Yelton of the Squamish Nation, which was added to the park’s Brockton Point in 2009.
For breathtaking views of the Pacific Northwest rainforest, take a walk along the Capilano Suspension Bridge, a 137 metre (450 foot) long bridge above the Capilano River, one of Vancouver’s most popular tourist attractions. Along with this thrilling view of B.C. temperate rainforest, the park also features eco tours, First Nations cedar carving demonstrations, a treetops adventure and Cliffwalk—a cantilevered walkway that juts out over the canyon below. Take a picture next to colorful totem poles in Totem Park, or stop in the Kia’palano First Nations cultural centre, where you can learn about this band’s culture and heritage, as well as watch weaving and beadwork demonstrations.