Documentation:Unceded self guided tour

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We frequently hear this word used on campus and in our communities in acknowledgement and thanks to our host nation(s). UBC Longhouse Elder-in-Residence, Larry Grant, has given countless welcomes to Musqueam territory at UBC gatherings, and he never omits the use of this adjective to describe his nation’s lands.

How do you view the land beneath your feet? Is it anchored in a legally framed history learned from a settler perspective, or have you taken the time to learn about how Indigenous peoples view our lands and the conversations around our rights connected to it? This exhibit honors and raises the awareness of legal histories exemplifying ground breaking changes in the relationships between the Crown and Aboriginal Peoples. As members of this community at UBC, and as (many of us) guests on Musqueam territory, it is our responsibility to inform ourselves about the history of the land in solidarity of the Elders who gave much to the teaching and learning that takes place here. You are invited to consider the legal challenges raised by the communities and represented by unceded’’s curators.


Katie Selbee, Drew Ann Wake, Andrea Roca, Larry Grant, Bruce Muir, Leona Sparrow, Jordan Wilson, Sue Rowley, Amy Perreault, Sarah Dupont, Jessica Woolman, Jason Woolman, Sarah Ling, Jennifer Pride

unceded exhibit introduction

Welcome to the Cases

Please visit each case and reflect on each of the questions prepared.

Are there other questions you might ask?


TITLE: Musqueam: Our History

Musqueam Elder Larry Grant welcomes many of us here at UBC. Whether it is at the First Nations Longhouse, classrooms, ceremonies across campus, or at events, he encourages us to think more critically about our location here on this unceded territory - Musqueam land. ‬‬

‪In consultations with Larry and the Musqueam Treaty, Lands, and Resources Department, we asked what should be represented in this case. It became clear to us in the conversations that we had that the land has a legal history and stories that are very connected to contemporary issues we see today. What many of us lack through our educational experiences is a way to see how this legal history impacted Indigenous peoples; and more specifically members of the Musqueam community. Making these connections is crucial in gaining a better understanding of the land here beneath your feet. Sharing what you learn from this case and others in this exhibit is a responsibility that we have on this territory as members of UBC.


1) In this case Larry Grant says "Vancouver is the largest clear-cut area in the Southwest corner of British Columbia"
What do you think he means by this?
2) How will you share what you're learning about Musqueam and its relation to Canadian legal history with others?


TITLE: c̓əsnaʔəm


The Musqueam First Nation has lived at the mouth of Fraser River delta since time immemorial. c̓əsnaʔəm was one of the major village sites until around 1,500 years ago, when changes in the river moved some people farther inland. As colonial settlers developed the land in what is now known as Vancouver, c̓əsnaʔəm became known as Marpole. In the 1880s ethnographers, anthropologists and others raided the former village site, removing human remains and cultural objects. The site was declared to be a National Historic Site in 1933 and is known as one of the largest pre-contact middens in Western Canada. In January 2012, after discovering intact burials on part of the village site, Musqueam and supporters launched a vigil at the site to prevent the building of a 108 unit condo development. During five months of protest, the City of Vancouver, the B.C. Government and Musqueam’s Chief & Council and Administration met with the developer to discuss an amicable solution. The Nation was able to purchase part of the lot in October 2013, preventing any further development. Musqueam First Nation, the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) at UBC, and the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) have partnered on a groundbreaking exploration of an ancient landscape and living culture c̓əsnaʔəm, the city before the city — a series of three distinct exhibitions, now open to the public. The unified exhibits will connect visitors with c̓əsnaʔəm — sharing its powerful 5,000-year history and continuing significance.


One of Vancouver’s largest cemeteries is located at Fraser and 41st Avenue. What would you do if you discovered plans for a housing complex that would destroy graves and people buried there?


Musqueam First Nation.̓əsnaʔəm

The City Before the City.


TITLE: Breach of Trust: Musqueam Legal History


The Musqueam First Nation has been involved in a number of precedent-setting legal battles over the few decades. Two of these cases, R. v. Sparrow (1990) and R. v. Guerin (1984), made it to the Supreme Court of Canada and became landmark court cases further defining Aboriginal rights and title. These cases been hugely influential in raising public awareness about the issues that Aboriginal peoples in Canada continue to face due to the infringement upon and denial of their rights.


In the Sparrow case, Musqueam contended that they had the right to fish on the territory in question, because they had inhabited and fished on it for centuries. What are some other human rights given to all Canadians, regardless of their background?

In the case of R. v. Guerin, the court confirmed that the federal government has the “fiduciary duty,” or obligation, to act in the best interest of First Nations peoples. Under what circumstances can a government legally infringe upon an Aboriginal right?


James I. Reynolds. A Breach of Duty: Fiduciary Obligations and Aboriginal Peoples (Saskatoon: Purich Publishing, 2005).

“The Impact of the Guerin case on Aboriginal and Fiduciary Law” (2005) 63 The Advocate 365.

Supreme Court of Canada, R. v. Sparrow, [1990] 1 S.C.R. 1075.

Peter Kulchyski, Ed. “Guerin,” in Unjust Relations: Aboriginal Rights in Canadian Courts. (Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 1994). 151-181.


TITLE: “This is Fish Lake”: Excerpts from the 2010 CEAA Prosperity Mine Hearings in Xeni Gwet’in


“This is Fish Lake” is an assemblage of words and photos from the Tsilhqot’in fight to save Teztan Biny (“Fish Lake”) from a proposed open-pit gold mine. In 2010, Canadian mining company “Taseko” proposed draining Teztan Biny and establishing a mine. Many in the Tsilhqot’in region were intensely opposed to the mine, and throughout the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s (CEAA) hearings, Tsilhqot’in peoples of all ages attempted to convey to the CEAA panel the core message that “all the gold in the world cannot replace this ecosystem”. The excerpts in this collection focus on the hearings held in Xeni Gwet’in: through storytelling and images, the people of Xeni protested the impact of colonial industry on their way of life and on the ecosystem they have been caretaking for generations, and they strongly questioned the Canadian government’s assumption of authority over Tsilhqot’in land. While acknowledging the colonial format of the CEAA hearings themselves, these visual and textual excerpts attempt to re-tell the main story that the people of Xeni wanted the panel of outsiders to hear and see through their presentations: the cyclical, seasonal story of the Xeni people’s relationship with Nabas, with Teztan Biny, “Fish Lake”.


1) Consider Chief Baptiste's visual representation of Tsilhqot'in peoples' relationship with the land. Why might this relationship be difficult to "prove" in a hearing process focused on colonial-European notions of "land use"?

2) Although in the case of Teztan Biny the Tsilhqot'in peoples' activism prompted the Canadian government's rejection of the mine proposal, the burden of proof continues to be on First Nations peoples in current land disputes. What fundamental changes in the Canadian governmental system need to occur in order to correct this?


Selbee, Katie “This is Fish Lake”: Excerpts from the 2010 CEAA Prosperity Mine Hearings in Xeni Gwet’in (Class Project for ENGL 545D)

Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot’in Fight for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake). (2010). Retrieved from


TITLE: Inuvialuit


In 1968, oil was discovered at Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. A consortium was formed to build a pipeline across the North Slope of the Yukon to the Mackenzie Delta, then south along the Mackenzie Valley to the United States. It was the largest industrial project ever proposed in North America. But the Inuvialuit had never ceded the lands that the pipeline was going to cross. Danny C. Gordon was a young boy when his family walked from Alaska to the Mackenzie Delta in 1944 to escape famine.

"We travelled with one sled, eight dogs, six of us: my Dad and Mom and six children. Mom and the youngest rode in the sled, but they walked too, when conditions got bad... There were times when we travelled all day, and when we stopped, we could see in the distance the place we left from."

Twenty years later, when oil was discovered, Danny and his wife, Annie, were feeding their family by hunting caribou along the North Slope. They were concerned about the effect that pipeline construction would have on the calving grounds. So they joined other Inuvialuit to form the Committee for Original People's Entitlement. Annie, a gifted translator, travelled with the fieldworkers to visit families and interpret conversations about what would happen to the land and wildlife if the pipeline went through.

"We were doing maps, where the seals and whales were, and where the land should be protected."

The land claims halted progress on the pipeline so that Justice Thomas Berger could conduct a federal Inquiry. Both Danny and Annie spoke before the Judge, and Annie brought photos documenting the damage that oil exploration was doing to the land. In 1977, Judge Berger's final report recommended that that land claims be settled before pipeline construction began. The pipeline was never built.

Now in their seventies, Annie and Danny C. Gordon continue to support themselves by hunting caribou on their traditional lands. Their nephew, Dr. Gordon Christie, teaches in the Allard School of Law at UBC.


What experiences might Danny Gordon have had as a young child walking from Alaska to the Mackenzie Delta?

How might these experiences have affected his views on the ownership of the land?

What reaction would he have had to the news that the federal government might cede a right-of-way to the pipeline consortium?


TITLE: Dene Nation


In the early 1970s, when a consortium of oil companies announced their proposal to build a pipeline down the Mackenzie Valley, the Dene of the Northwest Territories were taken by surprise. The Dene had signed Treaties 8 and 11 in 1899 and 1921, but they recognized these as treaties of peace, not a surrender of their land. So the Dene chiefs filed a caveat asserting their claim to the land. When the case went to court, Justice Morrow travelled to Dene villages along the Mackenzie River to hear evidence from elders who had been present at the treaty negotiations half a century before.

When the court permitted the Dene to file the caveat, young Dene studying in colleges and universities in southern Canada returned to the north to fight the pipeline proposal. They established the Indian Brotherhood of the Northwest Territories. Many returned to their home communities to serve as fieldworkers. They interviewed hunters and trappers and drew maps that proved their traditional use of the land.

In 1975-76, the federal government asked Justice Thomas Berger review the pipeline proposal in the context of the northern land claims. Judge Berger visited 30 communities to hear evidence.

In village after village, young Dene leaders made passionate speeches. The speeches were carried south by CBC radio and television and, slowly, Canadian public opinion turned in favour of the Dene position: "No pipeline until our land claims are settled."

Steven Kakfwi was one of the young Dene activists. He was later elected to the Territorial Legislature. As Minister of Education he made dramatic changes to the northern school system. He served as Premier from 2000 - 2003, fulfilling many of the dreams he had discussed with his father many years before.


How did residential school affect Steve Kakfwi's view of Dene ownership of the land?

How did his grandfather's view differ?

How did the two generations act together to secure their legal claim to the territory?       


TITLE: Protecting Treaty Rights: The Klinse-za Caribou Herd’s Journey Towards Recovery


Aboriginal peoples have been struggling to protect the abundance, distribution, and diversity of species in their territories since the arrival of Europeans. For many, if not all, the struggle is more than protecting species for the purpose of sustenance. Species within their territories are the foundations upon which their cultures are predicated. Take away any one, interrelated and integrated as these species are in the cultures of Aboriginal peoples, may compromise the sustainability for future generations. Cultural subsistence, therefore, is fundamentally connected to the physical and spiritual well-being of the environments found within each Aboriginal territory.

In 1899, Aboriginal peoples in northern Alberta entered into Treaty 8 with the Crown on the basis of peace and friendship. Since Treaty 8 extended into Dunne-za hananè (Land of the Beaver People) located in northern BC and Alberta, the Mountain Dunne-za (Hudson’s Hope Indian Band) were admitted as well. While the Crown has no known written record of the adherence of the Hudson’s Hope Indian Band, which includes West Moberly First Nations as one of its descendants, the oral history is that the land was not ceded and that the same way of life that existed before 1899 is required to exist afterwards.

Guided by their Elders, West Moberly First Nations launched several legal challenges against the BC Government for its failure to adequately protect their cultural rights. Central to the legal challenges were cumulative effects from anthropogenic activities, traditional planning and management systems, and the cultural way of life as promised by Treaty No. 8. Both the British Columbia Supreme Court and the British Columbia Court of Appeal sided with West Moberly, and held that the BC Government was in the wrong. The Supreme Court of Canada rejected hearing the appeal submitted by the BC Government, which means the Canadian judiciary sided with West Moberly at the end. Caribou planning is now underway and West Moberly is hopeful that their actions were in time to save the species from extinction.


What are the adverse impacts to the Aboriginal culture from losing caribou?

How may the loss of a species be mitigated?