Voices in the Park
Decolonizing the History of Stanley Park
My research on Stanley Park takes place on the unceded, traditional and ancestral xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territories.
What's going on deep in the forests of Stanley Park?
I've always had a very average relationship with Vancouver's Stanley Park. It is undoubtedly a beautiful park that I have the privilege of enjoying every so often. I've walked the Seawall endless times, dodging cyclists and out of control rollerbladers. But that's all Stanley Park has ever been to me: a public park.
After I took CMNS 433: Issues in Communication and Cultural Policy, my whole perspective changed. We focused a lot on park creation and policies surrounding parks and their use. As I began to dig and learn more, I began to learn about the troubling history that Stanley Park has hidden deep in the forest.
To the use and enjoyment of people of all colours, creeds, and customs for all time. I name thee Stanley Park.
Lord Stanley, October 1889
And so, I started investigating.
Through the FCAT Undergraduate Research Fellowship Award, I was able to research the issues around the history of Stanley Park regarding the First Nations (Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples) and their relationship to the land prior to Stanley Park's creation.
This resulted in a lot of learning, meetings with professionals who are working in the thick of reconciliation efforts, a conference presentation, and a research paper.
How does our commitment to spaces for "the people" sit alongside recognition of Aboriginal rights and title?
Rena Soutar, "Exploring Park Board's Colonial Roots and Current Practices", July 2018
What's in this paper?
The question of who the park is for shaped my research and writing. In this paper, I begin by highlighting three different narratives that are commonly told about Stanley Park. Next, I highlight three narratives that are hidden from the mainstream about the First Nations residents who called the land known as Stanley Park home. I tie this all together by looking at how these narratives impact the way we as a society relate to Stanley Park.