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Seven Indigenous things to see and do on the North Shore this summer

There are lots of Indigenous experiences and artwork to see on the North Shore

Whether it’s sampling some tasty Indigenous cuisine from the renowned Mr. Bannock food truck or paddling out to sea at Whey-a-wichen (Cates Park), there are plenty of First Nations experiences on the North Shore.

Here are seven things you can do this summer: 

Explore Whey-ah-Wichen

If you’re looking for something to do on a cool summer’s afternoon, why not take some time to explore Whey-ah-wichen (Cates Park) in North Vancouver.

The area is one of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s most sacred traditional sites.

Those who enjoy getting outdoors and connecting with nature can hire a kayak and explore or take a stroll through the park and check out the various Indigenous art pieces along the way on a self-guided tour. Takaya Tours also offers a variety of cultural tours at the site and is hoping to bring back its traditional 35-foot canoe experience this summer, with advance bookings.

While walking along gravel paths winding through the forest, you’ll find a variety of Indigenous art pieces with stories to share.

There are four mosaic medallions near Roche Creek and along the waterfront that honour the importance of salmon as a source of sustenance for the Tsleil-Waututh people created by Coast Salish artist Zachary George and artist Liz Calvin, says North Vancouver Recreation and Culture.

Visitors to the park will also see a magnificent house post titled the Story of Creation carved from an old-growth western red cedar by George. The pole “depicts the transformation of man through the love and power of the wolf spirit,” explains North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission.

Plus, at each end of the waterfront path are two large boulders engraved with contemporary images honouring Tsleil-Waututh legends passed down through oral history created by Tsleil-Waututh artist Jordan Gallie.

Another art piece by Gallie, called New Beginnings, is inspired by the story of the wolf and can also be spotted on the trail.

The trail can be found at the east end of the upper parking lot at Whey-Ah-Wichen. You can begin your walk in almost any direction. The connecting paths will take you through the forest and along the shoreline.


Visit the Strength and Remembrance pole

Take a moment to reflect and visit the Strength and Remembrance pole. The carved red cedar pole that stands in remembrance of the missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls across Canada, the 14 women murdered in the Montreal massacre and all women who suffer in silence as victims of violence.

The pole, which was carved by Squamish Nation artist Sinamkin (Jody Broomfield), is meant to serve as a spiritual beacon for the victims. It is topped with the figure of a woman who represents all those who never came home. She is wrapped in a blanket to symbolize the love and care those gathered still feel for her and she stands atop an eagle, which has carried her home, with courage, to the Creator.

The pole can be found at the 100 block of East 14th Street in the City of North Vancouver.


Try Indigenous fusion street food

Stop by the award-winning Mr. Bannock food truck for a bite to eat, at 442 West First Street, North Vancouver, on Fridays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. There, visitors can try Squamish Nation chef Paul Natrall’s famous bannock (a type of fry bread), be surprised by a rotating fusion specialty dish, enjoy a handcrafted burger or a classic bannock taco – among other delights.


Take a photo with the Word to your Motherland mural

If you haven't seen the Word to Your Motherland mural up close it's worth a visit. 

"The colourful Word to Your Motherland mural is a unique cross-cultural artistic work that visually fuses hip-hop with the cultures of the participating artists’ individual motherlands, paying respect to the diverse roots of local residents and the cultural hybridity that enriches artistic practice and life within North Shore and Metro Vancouver communities," explains North Vancouver Recreation and Culture Commission on its website. 

Under the auspices of Creativa International, the mural was a collaboration between California-based artists Nisha K. Sembi and Miguel “Bounce” Perez and local artists Corey Bulpitt and Take5, with support from residents of the North Shore Lookout Shelter and local youth.

The mural is hoped to bring people of different cultural backgrounds together and build bridges of respect and understanding.

It can be found at 705 West Second Street, North Vancouver. 

Walk under the Sacred Mountains

Stop by 733 West Third St., North Vancouver, and take a photo with The Spirit of the Sacred Mountain sculpture created by Squamish Nation artist Sinámkin (Jody Broomfield).

The stunning four arches each contain the silhouettes of local mountain peaks Hollyburn, the Lions, Grouse, and Seymour.  The sculpture is located near the entrance to The Shore condominium complex in North Vancouver.


Wander through the Maplewood Flats

Go on one of the self-guided tours created by Wild Bird Trust of B.C. of the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area, which is situated within the traditional and unceded territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and has been occupied by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial.

The conservation area is home to a Tsleil-Waututh ancestral village site and fish weir. The mud flats provided food security and were managed for fish, shellfish, waterfowl and other resources.

The WBT has been managing the North Shore's only wild bird sanctuary that has five kilometres of trails since 1993 and works to reflect and acknowledge Tsleil-Waututh culture.

Due to COVID-19, many of their usual events and programs have been postponed or moved online, but they usually offer monthly Indigenous plant talks and they also have a Coast Salish plant nursery.  

A number of Indigenous art pieces can also be spotted at the flats, including house posts at the Culture House entry, by master carver Zachary George, an Osprey on the Culture House and etchings on windows by Jordan Gallie, a painting and poem on the east access to the mud flats by Ocean Hyland, and a Blue Heron at Osprey Point by James Harry.


Learn about Chief Dan George  

An exhibition is currently on view about the late Tsleil-Waututh Nation Chief Dan George (Tśētsawanexw and Stalaston).

As well as a respected leader, George, who was born in North Vancouver on July 24, 1899, and died on Sept. 23, 1981, at age 82, was a beloved actor, musician, poet, author, and strong advocate for Indigenous rights. 

The Chief Dan George Exhibit: Actor and Activist, originally developed by MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver, is currently being exhibited by The Wild Bird Trust of British Columbia and is showing at the Maplewood Flats Conservation Area in North Vancouver. It focuses on George’s influence as an advocate for the rights of First Nations Peoples in Canada and beyond as well as his career as a television and film actor. 

The exhibit is ongoing until Aug. 29 at Maplewood Flats, 2649 Dollarton Hwy., North Vancouver.


Elisia Seeber is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.