Snuneymuxw First Nation

Nation

The Snuneymuxw are a vibrant First Nation of the Coast Salish People, residing in the centre of Coast Salish territory on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, with villages on the Fraser River and waterways in the Gulf Islands. Snuneymuxw territory encompasses one of the most productive and resource rich areas at the heart of the Salish Sea.

Since time immemorial, the Snuneymuxw People have resided in Snuneymuxw Territory as the first peoples, sustaining their lands, resources, and
cultural and spiritual way of life.
 
A few centuries ago, the Snuneymuxw People welcomed explorers to Snuneymuxw territories and waters, providing the newcomers with sustenance and engaging them in trade and commerce.  

On December 23, 1854, the Snuneymuxw People entered the Snuneymuxw Treaty of 1854 to forever and always preserve and protect Snuneymuxw villages, enclosed fields, waterways, harvesting and gathering, and the rights to hunt and fisheries as formerly. Often referred to as a trade and commerce treaty, the Snuneymuxw Treaty of 1854 is protected under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. The Ancestors were brilliant to protect the Snuneymuxw way of being by entering into the strongest treaty agreement available to Canada.

The Memorandum of Understanding that Snuneymuxw signed with Canada and B.C. in 2021 is a fundamental and transformative shift from extinguishment of rights to recognition and implementation of the Snuneymuxw Treaty of 1854.

Much was done over the last 165+ years to deny or erase Snuneymuxw people, Snuneymuxw rights, way of being and spirituality. While fighting and prevailing against the weight of oppressive systems, Snuneymuxw has persistently prioritized community, Snawayalth, and the Land.

Now, in the midst of a climate crisis, Snuneymuxw is driven by the urgent need to heal the Land and its communities. Snuneymuxw First Nation warmly welcomes you to continue the Snuneymuxw legacy of learning from, caring for, protecting, and enjoying the unsparing blessings of this sacred place.

Culture

Snuneymuxw culture is founded upon a deep connection to our land, waters, and all living things. The Creator has provided a sacred trust to Snuneymuxw in relation to Snuneymuxw Territory. We are in a sacred relationship with all things in the natural world - the land, waters and air, and all of the plants and animals we live with. Respect for the spirit and life in each of these, and the intricate relationships and interconnectedness we are all in together is a key value and principle of our culture.

At the foundation of our culture, which has arisen and developed in relation to our Territory, these principles and others - known as our Snawayalth or sacred teachings guide our continuing relationship to each other and to our Territory. Those who hold this ancient knowledge can explain the complex meaning of the Snawayalth (teachings) and help us understand today how to best make decisions about how we should interact with our Territory and each other.

Through sharing Snuneymuxw stories, traditional knowledge, our language and ceremony, our present and future generations benefit from the wisdom and teachings of our elders and ancestors while carving a new path of possibilities and opportunities for our People.

Language

The language of the Snuneymuxw is Island Hul'q'umin'um', a living language that expresses our worldview and way of life. Our language connects us to the wisdom and knowledge of our ancestors and infuses our People with valuable insights and understanding. 

Hul'q'umin'um' is one of the twenty-three Salishan languages of southwestern Canada and the northwestern United States. The Hul'q'umin'um' language has three principle dialects: Upriver (Stalo), spoken in the vicinity of Chilliwack, Downriver, spoken at Katzie, Musqueam, and Tsawwassen, and Island Hul'q'umin'um' which, in addition to Snuneyxmuxw, is spoken by the Nanoose, Chemainus, Penelakut, Cowichan, Halalt and Lyackson First Nations.

Maintaining fluency in our language has been challenged by systematic attacks and demands imposed by Crown policies and laws aimed at assimilation. This threat has become increasingly real as only a small number of Elders and members remain fluent. 

Our government and community are continually expanding opportunities for our youth and children to learn our language.  It is taught in our school, and as part of our ethic of life-long learning. 

Learn more about Hul'q'umin'um' classes at the Snuneymuxw Learning Academy here.

Territory

Snuneymuxw Territory is located in the centre of Coast Salish territory on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the Fraser River in the Canadian province of British Columbia.

Snuneymuxw territory encompasses one of the most productive and resource rich areas at the heart of the Salish Sea.