First Nations and Aboriginal Perspectives: Negotiating the Indigenous City

This is more material from my archived work at Stanford:

30 Nov 2005 the Four Host First Nations (Lil’wat, Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh) signed a protocol which marks the first time that an Olympic organising committee has entered into partnership with an indigenous people.

‘The Protocol supports shared collaboration that will:

  • Increase opportunities to showcase art, language, traditions, history and culture
  • Promote skills development and training related to the Games
  • Build lasting social, cultural and economic opportunities and benefits
  • Improve health, education and the strengthening of the communities through sport, economic development and cultural involvement
  • Create Youth sport legacy
  • Increase participation in Arts festivals and events
  • Increase participation in medal ceremonies, Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies’


Map showing First Nation territories and Olympic venues

Aboriginal involvement in the Games is, unsurprisingly, hugely controversial within the communities. The Host Nations see this as a unique involvement opportunity to raise the international profile of aboriginal peoples, nations and enterprise. Others see this as ‘selling out’. There are the Insurrectionary Anarchists of the Coast Salish Territories who protest capitalism and colonialism and the Four Nations participation full stop. Redwire Native Youth Media Magazine’s Oct 2007 edition covered issues around defending the land, which looked at the Olympics. No Vancouver 2010 Olympics on Stolen Native Land sits more within an established activist framework. These are all different modes of engaging with the question of what ‘Vancouver’ might mean and espouse different politics and aspirations. Yet, the city’s name is performative of the act of colonisation, named for Captain George Vancouver. The history of its occupation by settlers is a familiar story of expulsion and destruction. Each time we mark the name of the city we repeat that history. Young native leaders call variously for reoccupation – whether than means squatting or a more conceptual focus on the need to enact the city as indigenous territory. I know that I am not qualified nor have any ancestral claim to take any kind of position on this. But I worry that my own ‘interest’ in Vancouver as lived space wavers around the responsibility I have as a researcher to not shy away from the complicated politics and ethics of place. I’m aware that my intellectual tendency towards place/space as multiple, intersecting and performed may seem to some to deny the importance of a more stable politics. While I may have been born and raised here, I rely on the hospitality of many: of the Coast Salish peoples, of my family, of institutions and of all of the people who spare the time to participate in this work.

Unveiling of Four Host First Nations emblem:

http://youtu.be/wDHe8196Dyc (link now defunct as account has been terminated)

When I titled this section I didn’t know about Kamala Todd’s initiative ‘Indigenous City’. Waiting to hear from her about an interview.

Between May and June am working with Musqueam-UBC Archaeology Field School to make documentary about archaeology practice in the community. Camera troubles this week…

Things moving swiftly at Musqueam, which is really enjoyable. The material from that is for Musqueam so I won’t discuss in any detail here. But continue to be struck by Vancouver context in which cultural heritage and archaeological practices are still seen to be somewhat distinct. Certainly what the FS does doesn’t feed in to 2010 activities. That may, however, be strategic….

Jennifer Kramer at UBC and some of her students are working on Olympics and First Nations issues. Also met George Nicholas from SFU and heard him speak about IP and First Nations issues. The use and abuse of aboriginal material culture in the branding of space is clearly a significant topic here, which reminds me of my PhD research on the Celts. However, I’m struck by how this kind of ‘superficial’ imagery may actually serve a useful purpose in terms of protecting the more vulnerable, significant and sacred material culture. Are the Olympic mascots, for example, useful gatekeepers to stop non-native people from appropriating the things that matter more to First Nations communities? Certainly people have developed a usefully wary attitude to questions of access due to the long history of exploitation. An interesting thought, anyway.

Waiting to meet with Kamala Todd, a Vancouver-based documentary filmmaker. Here’s Our City Our Voices, a short NFB/Storyscapes documentary, devised and directed by Todd, about aboriginal youth media training – particularly interesting in terms of the focus on the built environment of Vancouver and its hidden archaeologies:


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s