Editor’s note: The Chief is pleased this week to present the first in a series of articles by local historian Eric Andersen marking the “100 Years of Squamish” anniversary. The articles will appear in the last issue of each month during Squamish’s centennial year of 2014.
Squamish was established as railway town and terminus 100 years ago.
The head of Howe Sound had been identified as a potential transcontinental railway terminus in 1871, and the ancient route through the mountains from here was surveyed for the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1873.
A future townsite and port was taken into account when the Indian reserves were settled here in 1876 — by agreement with the Squamish chiefs, who acknowledged the strategic interests in the waterfront.
It was arranged between Chief Joseph of Sta-mus — Mak-nah-til-tun — and the Reserves Commission that the land south of today’s Pemberton Avenue would not be included in the reserves covering the rest of the delta.
This land, DL 486, would later become the Newport and, in 1914, the Squamish townsite.
In July 1913, Pacific Great Eastern Railway began negotiations with the Squamish chiefs over a proposal to purchase most of the Indian Reserve lands of the Squamish River delta. The company desired additional lands for further railway terminus development and future townsite expansion.
The land purchase agreement took well over a year to finalize, due to certain provisions of the Indian Act and the need to engage the provincial government.
Over the previous three decades, Burrard Inlet had come to be the place of main residence for a majority of the Squamish people.
However, the loss of the False Creek Indian Reserve in a controversial 1913 transaction involving the provincial government was no doubt also a factor for the Squamish chiefs in considering the PGE proposal here.
Land security and village improvements were to be sought in negotiations.
Chief Harry was the acknowledged Head Chief of the Squamish people at this time, but the Squamish tribes were not yet formally amalgamated. Yekwaupsum Reserve, of interest to the railway company for new yards and shops, was controlled by Chief Edward Williams, while the Mamquam Island, Squamish Island, Skwulwailem, Ahtsaan and Stawamus Reserves were controlled by Chief Joseph.
Two separate purchase agreements were made with these chiefs and voted upon by all band members with interests in these reserves, respectively — and then both agreements were also signed off by Chief Harry.
The bargain the Squamish chiefs made in 1914 resulted in the townsite of Squamish and also the village of Sta-mus that we recognize today. Their role among our community’s founders should be remembered.