Rain nurtures us and our environment. But when rainwater travels through an urban and industrial area, it picks up poisons and carries them into our waterways, including səlilwət (Burrard Inlet). This toxic urban runoff affects wildlife, our economic activities, our ability to swim, and to eat the seafood that has long nourished səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation).
Immerse yourself in Restoring a Healthy Inlet, an interactive StoryMap experience to learn from Tsleil-Waututh Nation members about what it means to protect səlilwət (Burrard Inlet) and how reducing pollution from stormwater runoff is one major step towards that goal.
Before Europeans arrived, Metro Vancouver consisted of forests, streams, wetlands and intertidal areas. Plants and soil soaked up rainfall. Cool, clean water flowed from streams into the Inlet. Sustainably managed fisheries, shellfish beds and gardens supported Tsleil-Waututh food harvests, economies and communities.
“Our ancestors were responsible for our rivers, streams, beaches and forests of our traditional territory.” – səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh Nation)
After thousands of years of supporting our Tsleil-Waututh way of life, in less than 200 years following European settlement, key marine resources in Burrard Inlet were wiped out, contaminated, or made inaccessible. Urban, commercial, and industrial development around səlilwət has hardened the land, removed natural vegetation, and damaged streams, estuaries, and intertidal habitat, and altered one-third of the shoreline. This has resulted in the decrease, loss, or contamination of native species, spread of invasive species, and water pollution.
Now, səlilwət is further polluted whenever it rains. When rainwater falls on our rooftops, streets, parking lots and industrial areas, it picks up litter, tire pieces, oil, paint, and many other contaminants, and transports them into pipes and streams, which then flow into the Inlet. During heavy rains, raw sewage also enters the Inlet from combined sewers, which carry both stormwater and wastewater.
There are 400 stormwater outfalls and 28 combined sewer overflow outfalls around Burrard Inlet. More than 700 contaminants have been detected in Burrard Inlet.
This has threatened the foundation of the Tsleil-Waututh economy and way of life.
As members of Tsleil-Waututh Nation, we work to protect, monitor and restore Tsleil-Waututh lands and waters as caretakers of this area. TWN is combining Indigenous and western science, and leading many research, policy, and restoration projects to help clean up the Inlet. The Inlet remains important to many species, including marine mammals, marine birds, salmon, big and small fish, and shellfish.
“As Tsleil-Waututh People, our lands and waters are some of the most impacted lands in all of Canada. We have so much work to do in order to restore the damage our territory suffered under colonialism and industrialization. The Burrard Inlet, our Grandmother, that is why we protect her. We want to reduce the risks that stormwater runoff causes to our beautiful Inlet. We want healthy water, we want a safe place for our finned relatives to live, and we want healthy water for our descendants. Let us work together to reduce the harmful impacts.”
– Gabriel George, Director, Treaty, Lands and Resources
Let’s all do our part to reduce pollution in səlilwətaɬ (Burrard Inlet). Together, we can help restore the health of our waters. Learn more about what individuals like you and governments can do to take action through this StoryMap.
“I’m a proud Tsleil-Waututh member and artist. To have contributed artwork for the StoryMap means a great deal to me. To go through the interactive website and learn about stormwater pollution along with important backstory and history of our peoples’ work is a beautiful, engaging experience that I think will have an important impact!”
– Olivia George, Tsleil-Waututh Artist
The “Restoring a Healthy Inlet” StoryMap represents the spirit of collaboration. The project was led by the Treaty, Lands and Resources Department at Tsleil-Waututh Nation in collaboration with Tsleil-Waututh artist Olivia George, Inlailawatash Limited Partnership, and the City of Vancouver.