Vancouver’s new mega-development is big, ambitious and undeniably Indigenous: In B.C., Indigenous nations are reclaiming power and wealth for their own citizens—no matter what the neighbours thin (Michelle Cyca, March 11, 2024, Macleans)

Sen̓áḵw is big, ambitious and undeniably urban—and undeniably Indigenous. It’s being built on reserve land owned by the Squamish First Nation, and it’s spearheaded by the Squamish Nation itself, in partnership with the private real estate developer Westbank. Because the project is on First Nations land, not city land, it’s under Squamish authority, free of Vancouver’s zoning rules. And the Nation has chosen to build bigger, denser and taller than any development on city property would be allowed.

Predictably, not everyone has been happy about it. Critics have included local planners, politicians and, especially, residents of Kitsilano Point, a rarified beachfront neighbourhood bordering the reserve. And there’s been an extra edge to their critiques that’s gone beyond standard-issue NIMBYism about too-tall buildings and preserving neighbourhood character. There’s also been a persistent sense of disbelief that Indigenous people could be responsible for this futuristic version of urban living. In 2022, Gordon Price, a prominent Vancouver urban planner and a former city councillor, told Gitksan reporter Angela Sterritt, “When you’re building 30, 40-storey high rises out of concrete, there’s a big gap between that and an Indigenous way of building.

The subtext is as unmissable as a skyscraper: Indigenous culture and urban life—let alone urban development—don’t mix. That response isn’t confined to Sen̓áḵw, either. On Vancouver’s west side, the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh Nations—through a joint partnership called MST Development Corp.—are planning a 12-tower development called the Heather Lands. In 2022, city councillor Colleen Hardwick said of that project, “How do you reconcile Indigenous ways of being with 18-storey high-rises?” (Hardwick, it goes without saying, is not Indigenous.) MST is also planning an even bigger development, called Iy̓álmexw in the Squamish language and ʔəy̓alməxʷ in Halkomelem. Better known as Jericho Lands, it will include 13,000 new homes on a 90-acre site. At a city council meeting this January, a stream of non-Indigenous residents turned up to oppose it. One woman speculated that the late Tsleil-Waututh Chief Dan George would be outraged at the “monstrous development on sacred land.”

To Indigenous people themselves, though, these developments mark a decisive moment in the evolution of our sovereignty in this country. The fact is, Canadians aren’t used to seeing Indigenous people occupy places that are socially, economically or geographically valuable, like Sen̓áḵw. After decades of marginalization, our absence seems natural, our presence somehow unnatural. Something like Sen̓áḵw is remarkable not just in terms of its scale and economic value (expected to generate billions in revenue for the Squamish Nation). It’s remarkable because it’s a restoration of our authority and presence in the heart of a Canadian city. […]

What chafes critics, even those who might consider themselves progressive, is that they expect reconciliation to instead look like a kind of reversal, rewinding the tape of history to some museum-diorama past.

Hilarious that the Left expected the End of History to pass them by.