Who is the Tsleil-Waututh Nation?
The Tsleil-Waututh Nation is a small but growing Coast Salish community of more than 500 people, living on a reserve on Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, with additional reserve and private lands in the Indian River valley.
Where is your territory; where do you live?
Our traditional territory—the land we have always occupied and used—encompasses a large area of 190,000 hectares reaching from the Fraser River in the south to Mamquam Lake (east of Whistler) in the north. Today, about half of our people live in Burrard Inlet Indian Reserve #3 (a government-allocated name), and the balance live off the reserve. In addition, we have two smaller reserves at the head of Indian Arm.
What does Tsleil-Waututh mean?
Tsleil-Waututh (pronounced Slay-wah-tuth) means People of the Inlet in our traditional language, Downriver Hunq’eme’nem.
Traditional Spelling: səlilwətaɬ
You describe yourselves as “People of the Inlet” and “Children of Takaya.” What do these terms mean?
“People of the Inlet” refers to our close relationship with the water. We have lived by and on our inlet for thousands of years. Our people used to say, “When the tide went out, the table was set,” in reference to the many food sources once available to us from the inlet. And in our language, “Takaya,” means wolf, and we are the Children of Takaya. The story of the wolf tells us the Creator transformed the wolf into the first Tsleil-Wautt, and made the wolf responsible for this land.
Why do we also see you referred to as the “Burrard Indian Band”?
The federal government set out Indian reserves in this area in 1869. Our 276 acres was called Burrard Inlet Indian Reserve #3 and is where our people were situated when the reserve was created. This area is actually a former summer village site for our people. We have been using our original name, Tsleil-Waututh Nation, since 2000.
How are you distinct from the other Coast Salish First Nations?
Each of the numerous Coast Salish First Nations has traditional territory within the areas of Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. Each of us has our own culture, our own language, our own traditional territory.
What are the characteristics of your culture?
To the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, our culture is expressed in our laws and our teachings: caring for the land and water, drumming and dancing, carving and weaving, our language and traditions, our regalia, our ceremonies, the stories and teachings we have been told and tell our children, and the strong sense of family within our community.
Our culture has a deep connection to the land, water, resources, animals and the Creator. We believe all living creatures and human beings have a purpose; it is our sacred trust to care for this territory so all can live in harmony and balance.
What do you want people to know about the Tsleil-Waututh?
We acknowledge the past history of wrongdoing to our people; however, we build on the strength and wisdom of our ancestors and, in a spirit of unity and togetherness, move ahead in a positive manner. We are a visible, progressive First Nation in an urbanized setting. We continue to look for new partnerships, new opportunities, and new ways to share who we are. We see great opportunities for us to advance, while celebrating our rich culture and building a strong healthy economy and nation.
“We know where we come from and we know who we are. We are looking forward.” (Tsleil-Waututh Nation Declaration, 1997)