The Squamish Nation, as a government, has existed since 1923. In our language, we are called Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw. Prior to 1923, the Squamish People were socially, economically, and politically organized into several physical communities called an úxwumixw (“village; people”) in the territory of the Squamish People.
The territory of the Squamish People includes the Burrard Inlet, English Bay, False Creek, and Howe Sound watersheds. While historically the Squamish People had a tradition of dual residencies between the Howe Sound Watershed and the English Bay or Burrard Inlet watershed, the majority of our people live on the North Shore of Vancouver in three communities in West Vancouver and North Vancouver and approximately 10 percent of our population living in communities along the Squamish River in Squamish, British Columbia.
The Squamish Language is spoken today by dozens of Squamish People as a second-language. It has been learned from our elders who held onto the knowledge of the language after a significant decline in the population of first-language speakers. The language is unique from the language of neighbouring Indigenous Peoples, but considered part of the Coast Salish language family, and part of the wider Salishan language family.
Our people’s history spans many millennia of living and governing our territory. The oldest archaeological site in the territory of the Squamish People is 8,600 years old at Porteau Cove in the Howe Sound. Our oral literature speaks to our origins as a people in our lands through the stories of first ancestors of the Squamish People. Our people consider ourselves descendants of those first Squamish ancestors who were made or appeared in different parts of Squamish territory
Squamish culture has been created from our lands, waters, and people over generations. Our people continue to practice many of the traditions, customs, and ways of our ancestors and pass them onto future generations.
The modern era of Squamish Nation history started in 1923 when a majority of the Squamish People who were eligible voters at the time all voted to request the Federal Department of Indian Affairs amalgamate several different Indian Bands with Squamish People into a single entity called the Squamish Nation. The amalgamation request was approved and all accounts were merged, all Indian Reserve lands were to be held by the single entity, and all Squamish People were to receive equal distribution of any revenue received from any of the 26 different Indian Reserve lands that belonged to all Squamish People.
The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim (Squamish language) is an independent language that belongs to the Salish language family. Historically there were 23 Salish languages. These languages were spoken in Southern British Columbia, throughout Washington State, on the Oregon Coast, and into Idaho and Montana. The whole Salish language family consists of five branches with each branch language sharing many things in common compared to other branches. The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim is one of 10 languages that belong to the Coast Salish branch.
The Squamish People are the Indigenous Peoples who speak the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim. Today, the term “Squamish Nation” is often used to describe this group of Coast Salish people, however in the long ago there was no word for “nation” and the Squamish simply called themselves Sḵwx̱wú7mesh or “the Squamish People.” The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh sníchim, although critically endangered, is still a vital part of the Squamish culture.
The total area of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw traditional territory is 6,732 square kilometers (673,200 hectares).
The Nation consists of 23 villages encompassing 28.28 square kilometers (2,828 hectares). These parcels of land are scattered from Vancouver to Gibsons Landing to the area north of Howe Sound.
Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw traditional territory is located in the Lower Mainland region of British Columbia. Prior to, and following the arrival of Europeans in the late 1700s, the lands and waters we used and occupied either exclusively, or jointly with our First Nation neighbours, were from Point Grey on the south to Roberts Creek on the west; then north along the height of land to the Elaho River headwaters including all of the islands in Howe Sound and the entire Squamish valley and Howe Sound drainages; then southeast to the confluence of the Soo and Green Rivers north from Whistler; then south along the height of land to the Port Moody area including the entire Mamquam River and Indian Arm drainages; then west along the height of land to Point Grey.
This territory includes some of the present day cities of Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster, all of the cities of North Vancouver and West Vancouver, Port Moody and all of the District of Squamish and the Municipality of Whistler. These boundaries embrace all of Howe Sound, Burrard Inlet and English Bay as well as the rivers and creeks that flow into these bodies of water. In addition, we used and occupied the various islands located in Howe Sound.
Our historical links to these lands and waters are numerous. Squamish place names exist throughout the territory. In many instances, a location has particular meaning to our people because of the existence of oral traditions that served to explain that place in the Squamish universe and in our relationship to the land. In addition, the land bears witness to the settlements, resource sites, and spiritual and ritual places of our ancestors, including villages, hunting camps, cedar bark gathering areas, rock quarries, clam processing camps, pictographs and cemeteries. Some of these village sites date back 3000 years.
The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw Government is composed of an elected Nexwsxwníw̓ ntm ta Úxwumixw (Council) – one Chairperson and seven Councillors (three representing regional areas and four general), an elected Band Manager, and the Nation Administration. We are a careful and responsible government. We carefully manage our financial and human resources and always make decisions in the interest of the collective. As a responsible government, we have an obligation to Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw membership to always carefully manage our financial and human resources, and we do so with pride.
Nexwsxwníw̓ ntm ta Úxwumixw, and each member of the Council, as well as all other officials and employees of the Nation, have a fiduciary duty to act honestly and in good faith and in the best interests of the Nation in connection with the carrying out of any of their duties and responsibilities on behalf of the Nation.
Nexwsxwníw̓ ntm ta Úxwumixw receives their mandate to carry out the business and the operations of the Nation from membership through elections every four years. In turn, Nexwsxwníw̓ ntm ta Úxwumixw provides a mandate to staff based on a solid foundation of planning, policy and procedures.
For more information please visit the Nexwsxwníw̓ ntm ta Úxwumixw (Council) webpage.