Part of being connected to a place is understanding its history.
In UBC Vancouver’s case, that means knowing that we study, attend class, and meet friends on the traditional, ancestral, and unceded territory of the Musqueam people. During your time at UBC, you might observe representations of Musqueam culture and history around campus.
The land acknowledgement
First and foremost, you’ll notice that most events and meetings at UBC begin with a land acknowledgement (there’s even one right here in this blog post!). But what do these words actually mean?
Traditional: recognizes lands traditionally used and/or occupied by the Musqueam people or other First Nations in other parts of the country
Ancestral: recognizes land that is handed down from generation to generation
Unceded: refers to land that was not turned over to the Crown (government) by a treaty or other agreement
When we precede University events with these words, we intentionally recognize that our presence here is not a right or even a privilege; it is the result of many, many years of wrongful treatment of the legitimate owners of this land. While we cannot change history, we can recognize that this is Musqueam territory and ensure that those connections are honoured and do not appear as just a formality.
In plain sight
Another way that UBC and the Musqueam have worked together to interweave this land’s history into campus is through visible representations of Musqueam art and language.
Most prominent, of course, is the beautiful, intricate Musqueam Post, which stands tall over the eastern entrance to campus, right next to the Alumni Centre—it’s basically impossible to miss.
You’ll also notice that a number of the street signs around campus include an English name and a name in the Musqueam language of hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ [hunk-uhm-ee-num]. The words aren’t direct translations, but rather refer to the geographical location or purpose of the streets. In this way, these street signs remind us of this land’s history and also teach us something about the specific way in which the Musqueam people interpret spaces.
Learn and listen
If you want to learn more about the Musqueam or about the history of Canadian Indigenous peoples in general, there are lots of ways to do that at UBC:
- Visit the Indigenous Foundations site
- Check out the Museum of Anthropology (admission is free for students!) to see incredible exhibits about First Nations in BC
- Learn more about Indigenous created public art on campus by exploring this map
- To understand more about the history of residential schools in Canada, head over to the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre
- To take part in Indigenous events on campus or virtually, visit this Indigenous Events calendar or swing by the First Nations Longhouse to learn more (note that COVID-19-related restrictions may still be in effect)
However you decide to engage, it’s always worthwhile to learn more about the places where you spend your time. This land has a rich history of community, dating back long before the campus ever existed. The Musqueam people have been learning and living here for centuries, and knowing their history is worthy of our time and energy.
So, to all new UBC students, welcome to your new home—and, in the words of Musqueam Elder Larry Grant:
“I raise my hands in welcome to all of you here at UBC, on the traditional, ancestral, unceded lands of the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓-speaking Musqueam people.”
Watch the Musqueam Welcome by sʔəyəɬəq (Larry Grant):