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Progress Report: Tsleil-Waututh Nation has stewarded local waterways for thousands of years

In 2022, members continue traditions of land stewardship, sustainable economic growth and cultural preservation

Note: This story originally appeared in the North Shore Progress Report, a special feature section of the North Shore News. 

As the “People of the Inlet,” members of Tsleil-Waututh Nation thrived around the pristine waters of the səl̓ilw̓ət, also called the Burrard Inlet, for thousands of years.

In 2022, they continue traditions of land stewardship, sustainable economic growth and cultural preservation. 

While the traditional territory of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation spans over 1,800 square kilometres around and north of the Burrard Inlet, the majority of its members today live on reserve land or in North Vancouver.

According to oral history, the First Nation was once about 10,000 strong, but its population was decimated by European settlers by way of disease and racist policy.

TWN now has around 600 members, an increase of more than 200 per cent over the past 30 years. Its population is relatively young, and continues to grow.

Before his death in 2017, 12-year chief Leonard George used his business savvy to pave the way for the creation of Takaya Developments and the Raven Woods community. Due to George’s efforts, employment opportunities within the First Nation grew from a tiny administrative staff to over 150 people.

As a celebrated leader and environmental advocate, his legacies endure.

Toward the end of 2020, TWN started generating electricity from its massive solar project, the largest in the Metro Vancouver area. The 341 solar panels are clustered in five south-facing arrays at the nation’s administrative building at 3178 Alder Court in North Van. The project was designed to generate 134 kilowatts of electricity, enough to supply all the building’s power needs.

The First Nations school on TWN land actively teaches youth about land stewardship. Schooling there offers hands on, culturally immersed programming that aims to decolonize education strategies.

TWN is growing its economy with several projects.

With Takaya Developments, the nation has been building high-end condos and townhomes for nearly 25 years, and now partners with Aquilini Development Group. 

This year, TWN started showing townhouses at its Seymour Village development on Raven Woods Drive. According to the nation, around 500 units sold out during presale. When that project is complete, Takaya will have built 1,550 units in total.

In 2019, the Tsleil-Waututh applied to Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada to add 45 acres of land in the Maplewood area to their reserve. The property at 2420 Dollarton Hwy. is owned through a 50-50 partnership of Darwin Construction and TWN. The application was intended to move the community toward self-sufficiency and sovereignty.

In 2020, TWN got a $2.8-million boost from the federal government to build a new commercial plaza and road connecting Mount Seymour Parkway to Dollarton Highway, at Apex Drive. The nation said the project would create 44 full-time jobs and one spinoff business, generating economic benefits of close to $43 million over eight years.

The North Shore Progress Report also contained features on the City of North Vancouver, District of West Vancouver, Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation. The entire feature is also available as a digital edition.

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