In less than 150 years, the Kitsilano Indian Reserve appeared, disappeared and reappeared.
Just like thousands more in the province, the reserve appeared the first time it was measured and mapped. Indeed, the fundamental line on the map of British Columbia is the border drawn around an Indian reserve.
These borders, like lines of confinement in the words of one prominent social geographer, “defined two primal spaces: one for Native people and the other for virtually everyone else.”
Such a line was drawn around a place called Senakw. After the reserve was given to the Squamish and renamed for the surrounding suburb of Kitsilano, the village was burned, the dead unearthed and the living displaced.
A century later, the Squamish First Nation is rebuilding. Out of sight under a bridge that leads to the heart of downtown Vancouver, The Kitsilano Indian Reserve is a misshapen fraction of its former size but the land is under development. To the ire of many Vancouverites, the Squamish raised one digital billboard in 2009 and leaders say high-rise buildings are imminent.
The city’s residents and elected municipal leaders have no say what their urban Native neighbours pursue on the land.
“One way or another,” said one Squamish band councillor, “we are going to assert ourselves.”