Emily Carr's watercolour "Indian Encampment Vancouver" (circa 1908-9). The painting shows the old Kitsilano Indian Reserve on the south side of False Creek, which is today's Vanier Park. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Sen̓áḵw History

In the Past

The First Nations occupied about 80 acres (32.4 hectares) of land in the False Creek area. The land the Squamish Nation is developing was once part of an ancestral village called Sen̓áḵw, (also referred to under many other names, such as Snaug), home to about 20 Squamish families or 150 people.


The colonial BC government set aside 37 acres (15 hectares) of land around Sen̓áḵw as a reserve.


The Federal Government allotted 91 acres (34 hectares) of the land to the Squamish Nation, naming it Kitsilano Indian Reserve no. 6, named after August Jack Khatsahlano, who moved to the Sen̓áḵw fishing village after workers chopped off part of his house when surveying for the road in what was to become Stanley Park. 


Vancouver became a city and wanted to take over reserve lands. 

The Federal Government expropriated portions of the reserve for railway purposes as the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was looking to develop the area with a port, railing and summer resort. 

The CPR’s valuation for the entire reserve was $55.60 per hectare ($22.50 per acre). I.W. Powell, BC’s superintendent of Indian Affairs, said that these “loyal and exceedingly well disposed” Aboriginal people had claims “for a proper protection of their rights” and provided a harsh review of the CPR’s offer: “The expropriation of more than is required for the actual right-of-way … if taken for the construction thereon of terminal works … would no doubt enable the company to subdivide and sell the large tract around the reserve. But under such circumstances full value should be allowed the Indians for it.” Powell set a valuation of $1,853 per hectare ($750 per acre).

Though the CPR had the legal right to expropriate the entire reserve, it declined to do so, claiming the price Powell had set in 1886 was exorbitant. Even when the Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) reduced the price to $494 per hectare ($200 per acre) in 1895, the CPR provided compensation only for its original right-of-way (1.4 hectares). Besides this parcel, in 1901 the CPR expropriated 2.8 additional hectares on which to place a wye. 


The Federal Government amended the Indian Act, making it legal to remove Indigenous people from reserves within an incorporated town or city, without their consent.


The Provincial Government illegally (not following the provisions of the Indian Act) purchased the reserve from twenty males of the Sen̓áḵw at Kitsilano Reserve and paid each of them $11,250, although only 18 accepted so the total was $202,500 ($4.6 million in 2020 dollars). They were forced off the land and barged to North Vancouver and Howe Sound to other reserves. 

Aerial view of Kits Point and downtown, May 27, 1919: City of Vancouver Archives


The Federal Government objected to the sale and purchased the Kitsilano Reserve from the Provincial Government for $350,000 ($5.2 million in 2020 dollars).


The City of Vancouver applied for a right-of-way on the reserve for the Burrard Bridge, under provisions of the Indian Act that allowed for the expropriation of reserve lands for public works. 


The Department of National Defence under provisions of the Indian Act obtained four acres of the Kitsilano Reserve for an annual fee of $7,500 ($32,200 in 2020 dollars) to build the Seaforth Highlander Armoury.

Troops and boats landing at Kitsilano Beach during war-games exercises, City of Vancouver Archives ~1942


The Department of Indian Affairs took from the Squamish Nation a surrender under the Indian Act for the Kitsilano Reserve, stipulating that the reserve be sold for at least $600,000 ($8.4 million in 2020 dollars), from which the province was to be paid for its interest in the land the amount agreed upon in 1928,  $350,000 ($4.9 million in 2020 dollars). Over the following years, land parcels were sold to the Department of Defence, the Department of Reconstructions and Supply, the Department of Public Works, and Girody Sawmills. 


The entire Kitsilano Reserve was sold off.


The Federal Government turned over to the Vancouver Park Board the land that had been used as an RCAF supply depot.


The Vancouver Park Board established Vanier Park.


The Squamish Nation accused the Federal Government of failing to protect them from their reserve lands being wrongfully taken, beginning years of negotiations.


The Federal Government paid the Squamish Nation $92.5 million ($132.9 million in 2020 dollars) as a land-claims settlement and returned 4.7 hectares (11.6 acres) of the earlier Kitsilano Reserve along the west side of the Burrard Bridge to the edge of False Creek and east toward 1st Avenue along the south side of Pennyfarthing Drive (oddly shaped as it had been the CPR right-of-way).


The Sen̓áḵw lands at the site of a former village and reserve of the Squamish Nation, following a decision of the BC Court of Appeal in 2002, were returned as a reserve to the Squamish Nation.


The Federal Government passed the First Nations Commercial and Industrial Development Act, giving it the power to regulate commercial endeavours on reserves.


The Squamish Nation signed a 30-year contract with Astral Media Outdoor to manage the electronic billboard on its reserve.


The Federal Government passed the First Nations Certainty of Land Title Act, providing for a land-title and registry system on reserve lands giving bands the authority to transfer property rights to non-aboriginals, making it easier for people to obtain bank funding to buy condos on reserve lands, mostly under 99-year leases.

The Squamish Nation announced plans to build a multi-million dollar project for business and government offices, a 35-storey and a 28-storey apartment tower and 2,000 parking spots.



Squamish Nation Councillor Khelsilem announced preliminary plans for as many as 3,000 housing units, possibly largely rental. The media reported that the Squamish Nation approached the City of Vancouver with Westbank Development Company to develop the site with that number and the Mayor of Vancouver and other City officials indicated that they would in effect welcome even more units.  


Squamish Nation Councillor Khelsilem officially announced a $3 billion real-estate development project, a 50/50 profit-sharing partnership agreement with Westbank, a major real-estate developer, (the Squamish Nation Westbank Partnership) to build 6,000 units (double the number announced in April) estimating 10,000 to 20,000 residents (100-200 units for First Nations) in 11 towers ranging in height from 32 storeys to 56 storeys and a total of 700 parking stalls. The proposal includes retail and commercial units. Construction will begin in 2021 and is estimated to take between five and twenty years. Notwithstanding the “unprecedented” density, Mayor Kennedy called the proposal a “gift to the city” and welcomed it as a feature of reconciliation.


The project was approved by the Squamish Nation.



Site work on the project began: tree removal, scrub brush removal and core-sampling.

The Squamish Nation indicated it will be holding information meetings this summer.

The KPRA asked the COV for a community traffic plan for Kits Point. (To see the letter go to the Traffic section.) 

In a June podcast with Vancouver Real Estate, Councillor Khelsilem announced that the master development agreement with Westbank has not been signed and there are ongoing conversations, in tandem with Westbank, with other organizations, including the City of Vancouver, Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Parks Board and the Vancouver School Board. His estimate was that 70%-90% of the units would be rental. The height of the shortest tower he said would be 16 storeys (formerly 36 storeys). He said construction will be a five-phase approach that will take five-to-ten years (reduced from five-to-twenty years) to complete.



The Daily Hive and The Globe and Mail reported the project will now consist of 12 buildings (previously 11, the new one is a 12-storey office tower on the eastern side) ranging from 17 to 59 storeys (previously 32 to 56). The project’s total square footage has increased to 4 million form 3.4 million. In phase one, four towers will be built on the western side closest to Kits Point. Access will be via a new road called Vanier Park Lane off Chestnut Street that swings into an underground garage. If the total parking is 600 spots as reported, with four of 12 buildings north of the bridge, assume 200 parking spots. (For perspective, the MOV Parking Lot has 248 spots.) The project will occupy only 10% of the land with open spaces for public courtyards, a playground and basketball courts. One level below ground will be stores, restaurants and a garage with space for 6,000 bikes with a car garage on the second level below. A grocery store and fitness centre were also shown. Estimates are that 9,000 people will live here.

The drawings show a Burrard Bridge transit hub as well as a light rail connector at the SE corner of First and Fir Streets. Toward the east, a roadway now swings under the Burrard Bridge to connect to Sen̓áḵw Lane whereas in earlier renderings it followed the “gravel road” along the western edge of the boat-parking area. Sen̓áḵw Lane heads south between the Sen̓áḵw and Quantum Park to First St. There is also access to underground parking between the southern most residential tower and the new office tower.

Our request to Sen̓áḵw for a meeting received this response (February 16): “There are still several partnership and designs discussions that are ongoing that need to conclude before such a meeting would be able to be arrange. We appreciate everyone’s patience while we work through these details and look forward to meeting with your group at the appropriate time.”


Significant upgrades have been made to the Sen̓áḵw website with detailed drawings of the entire project.


At a Webex meeting May 26 hosted by the City at the request of the KPRA, the City’s Ben Pollard noted that 950 units of the proposed development would be CMHC affordable. It was also confirmed that the green space for the proposed Vanier Park Lane exiting at Chestnut Street is federal land and therefore approval for such is a federal decision not that of the City. Few details about the discussions on the service agreement are available because the mayor and council have requested staff be briefed in camera. The City plans to share notes of our meeting with the Sen̓áḵw.


Chris Lewis from the Squamish First Nation was a guest speaker at the Urban Lunch Series held on August 12 led by Sam Sullivan. (https://publicsalon.org/) There is a YouTube recording of the luncheon available here:

Chris indicated they have completed service agreement negotiations with the City of Vancouver. Construction will start late this year or early next year.
As the market shifts, they will look at the possibility of more strata units relative to rentals.
North of bridge nearest to Kits Point there will be 1,186 units.
They are looking at innovative ways to talk with the school board and MST First Nations about creating new schools, possibly two in Vanier Park. Their slide illustrations refer to a new Indigenous Performing Arts Centre and home for Bard on the Beach in Vanier Park and a Maritime Centre for Reconciliation at the Maritime Museum location.

We contacted the City to confirm this information. Susan Haid, Deputy Director of Planning had not heard about these items but has been away on vacation and referred us to Ben Pollard, the person responsible for the services contract with the Sen̓áḵw project, who has not yet replied. The Maritime Museum said they have not been contacted by the City or the Sen̓áḵw re a Maritime Centre for Reconciliation. Bard on the Beach told us there is no official plan or agreement in place for a new, permanent facility for them and they have no specific information to pass on.


Gloria Sully initiated a meeting with Bernd Christmas, the new president and CEO of Nch’Kay, and the three members of the KET Towers committee, a forthright and congenial discussion held on September 10 at the MOV.