Home in Vancouver: c̓əsnaʔəm and heritage

Home in Vancouver is a series that explores the connections residents share in this city. It is important to explore as house-construction remains a significant driver for resource-use.


The continued trajectory of Vancouver’s real estate market has been leading to many raw discussions on the future of this city. Questions such as “who is living here”, “where do they live” and “how is it happening” spiral into the local zeitgeist. Last year, University of New Brunswick Professor Ricardo Duchesne publicly lamented that Vancouver’s population of Asian immigrants threatens the European heritage of Canada. The ongoing destruction of pre-1940’s character homes throughout Vancouver’s Westside has propelled a Facebook group Vancouver Vanishes into documenting what continues to be lost in the rapid transition. Last week the lucrative real estate technique of shadow flipping was featured in the Globe and Mail, renewing concerns around the influence of foreign buyers.

It is interesting to step back, and view housing in Vancouver through a different, often ignored lense. Museum of Vancouver curator Terry Point states “People often think of Vancouver as a new city, when it is in fact one of the most significant sites of ancient cultures in Canada - one that has even been compared to other societies such as the Egyptian and Roman societies”. The longstanding history of this city is one that has been inhabited for over 9,000 years. The original history of this place is our aboriginal heritage.

c̓əsnaʔəm is the name of the one of the largest Musqueam villages in what is now present-day Vancouver. Dating back to over 5,000 years, the habitation grew to an estimated 25,000 people. The advent of European contact dramatically changed the lives of those who lived there. For over the last 125 years, the Musqueam have had their ancestors and belongings taken without permission from the c̓əsnaʔəm village. Recently, urban development threatened the ancient burial grounds; with the Musqueam band working to protect the history and heritage for all British Columbians. The development have since been cancelled.

A collaboration between the Musqueam First Nation, the Museum of Vancouver and the Museum of Anthropology at UBC explores the living culture and landscape of this habitation through their exhibits of “c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city”. These unified exhibits highlight the heritage found exclusively in Vancouver. The Museum of Vancouver asks hard questions: “who's home is Vancouver? How have newcomers claimed Vancouver as their own? How do the Musqueam understand their lengthy connection to this place?”.

For the Musqueam, home is much more than a physical space; it is what connects individuals to a much broader web of family relationships and territory.
                                                                                                             - Museum of Vancouver

As Musqueam cultural advisor Larry Grant explains, “c̓əsnaʔəm: the city before the city aims at ‘righting history’ by creating a space for Musqueam to share their knowledge, culture and history and to highlight the community’s role in shaping the City of Vancouver.”

Home in Vancouver is a series that explores the connections residents share in this city. It is rich and complex. Please feel free to reach out, we would love to hear your stories.