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A 20-piece marching band leads the charge, and a procession of vehicles stretches from Powell Street to Prospect Point, as the city celebrates the official opening of its first public greenspace, Stanley Park.
“The people of the other provinces will recognize that her own citizens thoroughly believe in the stability and solidity of Vancouver,” gushes the Daily News-Advertiser, “and that while busy in extending her trade and commerce they are not heedless of the things which tend to make a city pleasant and agreeable; that while resolved to make this their home, they are also laying the foundation wisely and well of the means of continual enjoyment and pleasure for those who come after them.”
The opening ceremonies for the peninsula – simply referred to as “The Park” (it won’t be named until October of 1889, when it is dedicated by Canada’s Governor General, Lord Frederick Stanley), are held at the home of Squamish leader August Jack Khatsalano (whose family has lived at Prospect Point since before 1865), with Mayor David Oppenheimer’s declaration that it will be “a place of recreation in the vicinity of a city where its inhabitants can spend some time amid the beauties of nature away from the busy haunts of men.”
However, of little interest to the city is the fact that the park has been used for thousands of years by the west coast First Nations people, as both a burial ground, and the site for some of the largest potlatch ceremonies in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, the area has, for generations, been home to a number of Vancouver families, many of whom have legal claims to their land. However, the pressure brought to bear by local politicians (many of them landowners fearful of a drop in property values if the park were to become available for sale), the C.P.R. (whose machinations brought about the creation of the park in the first place), and the increasing support for public parks are simply too powerful, and, within a decade most of these families will be displaced, many without renumeration.
“The Park road was made around Stanley Park, and ran right through our house,” early resident Tim Cummings will recall, in a conversation with city archivist J.S. Mathews. “We had to move our house back to let the road go by.”
Others, including August Jack himself, will find their gardens, fences, and properties vandalized or destroyed by clearing crews.
“There were two of them,” August Jack will recount, in an interview with Mathews. “They cut off the corner of our house; just a little bit, so they could see where to put their survey line… The man said that when the road goes by here, you are going to have lots of money.”
Legal battles for the area will continue into the 20th century, however, by the late 1920s, all the Stanley Park families will have been removed, their homes destroyed, and their memories effectively erased from history.
They said ‘Pay to go through your place’,” Khatsalano will conclude. “But they have not paid yet.”
IMAGE: “Squatter’s Shacks”, near Deadman’s Island, circa 1910. Image Courtesy of the Vancouver Archives.