xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam)

We are traditional hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ speaking people. Today, we are a strong, growing community of over 1,300 members. Many of our members live on a small portion of our traditional territory, known as the Musqueam Indian Reserve, located south of Marine Drive near the mouth of the Fraser River. We have always moved throughout our territory using the resources it provides for fishing, hunting, trapping and gathering. We remain distinct and our cultural practices are strong, despite the devastating impacts of residential schools, colonial laws banning our ceremonies, and other attempts to assimilate our people. Our lands and waters continue to support our cultural and economic practices while serving as a source of knowledge and memory, encoded with our teachings and laws.

The name Musqueam relates back to the flowering plant, məθkʷəy̓, which grows in the Fraser River estuary.  There is a sχʷəy̓em̓ that has been passed on from generation to generation that explains how we became known as the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm – People of the məθkʷəy̓ plant.

The old people spoke of a small lake called xʷməm̓qʷe:m (Camosun Bog) where the sʔi:ɬqəy̓ (double-headed serpent) originated. They were warned as youth to be cautious and not go near or they would surely die. This sʔi:ɬqəy̓ was so massive its winding path from the lake to the stal̕əw̓ (river) became the creek flowing through Musqueam to this day. Everything the serpent passed over died and from its droppings bloomed a new plant, the məθkʷəy̓.

For this reason, the people of long ago named that place xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam – place of the məθkʷəy̓).

Our sniw̓ (teachings) and practices are part of who we are, and they have persevered because of the wisdom and resilience of our ancestors, and our intrinsic connection to our lands and waters. sniw̓ are expressed in our šxʷtəhim̓ (manners and customs), in our day-to-day interactions, and in the respect we show to others and to our work. When we are sq̓əq̓ip (gathered together) with our families and elders, we share teachings by listening, asking questions, being open to learning from others, and acknowledging what we don’t know.

Our elders have explained how people made in the very beginning were not altogether right. It was like they had no teachings; only some were right. During these times, it is said the delta was only water and Point Roberts was just an island. The one called χe:l̕s (the transformer) arrived. He took pity on the people and began travelling alongside them to help. The people and creatures that were not right were taught.  χe:l̕s taught us empathy, charity, forgiveness, compassion, and the importance of sharing the land, as well as other responsibilities. He left his teachings where he walked, and these teachings grew into our law. Those who refused to learn, χe:l̕s fixed, transforming them. Many were turned to stone and others into animals. These travels and transformations are written in the earth, captured in our sχʷəy̓em̓ (ancient histories), and recorded in our place names, making these lands core to our teachings. To this day, this ancestral knowledge and our connections to these places are reaffirmed through our cultural teachings, practices, and responsibilities.  These laws are the foundations of our present and future success.

To this day, we continue to practice our traditions and culture on a daily basis. We do this in a number of ways such as practicing sacred ceremonies and more informally, through sharing meals and our sχʷəy̓em̓ amongst our own community and with other First Nations communities who practice the same traditions. xʷməθkʷəy̓əm people continue to honour our collective responsibilities to keep our culture vital and strong, share our teachings and laws, and work collaboratively to protect our environment while building a vibrant community for all.