“When the tide went out, the table was set.”
Our Tsleil-Waututh ancestors traveled far and wide. As reflected in traditional use studies and archaeological evidence, our ancestors utilized and occupied a vast area. For treaty negotiation purposes, our territory, consisting of around 1865 square kilometers (720 square miles), was described to encompass the natural landmarks of Mt. Garibaldi in the north, Coquitlam Lake in the east, Howe Sound to the west, and the Fraser River in the south. The heart of our community is now centered around the Burrard Inlet, between Maplewood Flats and Deep Cove in North Vancouver, British Columbia.
The traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation was a veritable land of plenty. It was said that when the tide went out, the table was set. There was abundant fish and game to sustain not only the Tsleil-Waututh, but also our neighbors, the other First Nations with whom we allied through marriage or protocol. The resources of the territory were shared through the use of these protocols, which ensured that all were provided for and the abundance of the area was maintained.
While this territory was never ceded, nor our responsibility to this area ever abdicated, its resources have been exploited and damaged through industrialization and urbanization. It is now, and has always been the birthright and the obligation of the Tsleil-Waututh people to care for the lands and waters of our territory and to restore them to their prior state. It is through the fulfillment of our vision that we ensure that future generations of Tsleil-Waututh thrive.
Land claims under the treaty process have posed a unique challenge for the Tsleil-Waututh. The core of the territory over which the Nation holds aboriginal title is in the middle of what is now a highly urbanized area, which it shares with a huge number of private and public interests. Finding equitable ways to assert constitutionally protected aboriginal rights over the area involves a multifaceted approach, but one that prescribes Tsleil-Waututh inclusion in all decision-making processes involving our traditional territory.