Before the land we call Granville Island existed, this space was used by the three Host Nations, the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh). Originally two sandbars in the middle of San’aq (what we now call False Creek), it was an important location for these Nations, as it provided an abundant food supply; when the tide went out, the fish, seaweed, and shellfish would get trapped between the bars; the perfect local food source. You can read more about the prehistory of Granville Island here.
Fast forward to 2022: a cultural capital in Vancouver, Granville Island as it is today has always been dedicated to supporting the local artists and businesses in and around our community, and our support for Indigenous communities is reflected in businesses and art installations around the Island. We are continuously moving towards Reconciliation, and while we have a long way to go, it begins with understanding and support. Reading the 94 Calls to Truth and Reconciliation, learning about First Nations’ culture and history, and ensuring that the Indigenous products and artwork we purchase are authentic and give credit to their creators, are all ways of supporting the Indigenous people of Canada.
For authentic Indigenous art on Granville Island, you don’t have to look far! Not only will you find it in many of the shops, including Wickaninnish, which is Indigenously owned and operated, but no matter where you are outdoors, you are only a couple minutes from Indigenous art on a grand scale. You know that bridge that’s spans over Granville Island? There are some amazing pillars that are holding it up, not just due to strength, but also due to beauty. They were painted with Musqueam weaver, Debra Sparrow’s designs, made to resemble the traditional weaving of her community.
Many of the murals in the parking garage behind Alimentaria were painted by Indigenous artists; visit this page on our website for information about each one: (link). The pillars on Ocean Artworks on Johnston Street were carved by Xwlacktun, of Squamish and Kwakwak’wakw ancestry. It once housed the legendary Jade Canoe, a sculpture carved on Granville Island by internationally acclaimed Haida artist, Bill Reid. Now the space is used off and on by Indigenous carvers, one of our regulars being Clarence Mills, also of the Haida Nation.
When you are here, try to take the time to admire the artwork, to consider the artists and their heritage, and how their culture and experiences is reflected in their creations. It is an easy and important step to take when moving towards reconciliation.