We have been here since time immemorial.
7000 BC – According to archeologists, human beings occupied the southwest coast of B.C.
2260 BC – Sites within our historic winter village confirmed by carbon dating.
400–200 BC – The Tsawwassen First Nation people are by then well established in their traditional territory (as per documented proof from sites at Whalen Farm and Beach Grove).
1791 – Spanish and English explorers arrive in the vicinity of Tsawwassen.
1808 – The Simon Fraser expedition arrives at the mouth of the Fraser River.
Like many First Nations, after the arrival of Europeans our ancestors were devastated by epidemics of smallpox. Historians estimate that between 80 and 90 per cent of the Coast Salish were killed by the disease, decimating some Tsawwassen villages.
1851 – The International Boundary between Canada and the United States is created, alienating Point Roberts from Tsawwassen Territory without consultation, without compensation.
1858 – The Colony of British Columbia becomes official. Tsawwassen lands were pre-empted; settler families were given huge tracts of land.
Over the years, as the colony of British Columbia grew and prospered the Tsawwassen people – like other First Nations – were systematically stripped of their land, rights and resources. Simply put, our land was stolen.
1860 – The St. Charles Mission is established in New Westminster. This is Tsawwassen First Nation’s first contact with the Catholic Church.
1870 – B.C. unilaterally denies existence of aboriginal title, claiming aboriginal people are too primitive to understand the concept of land ownership.
1871 – Our Colonial reserve is formally established.
1874 – Our reserve was expanded to 490 acres, still a postage stamp sized piece of land compared to our traditional territory.
1878 – Tsawwassen Reserve is confirmed by Commissioner Sproat.
1878 – Canada begins to restrict traditional Indian fishing rights, making a new distinction between food and commercial fishing. The first census of Tsawwassen Indians is conducted.
1881 – The first official survey of the Tsawwassen Indian Reserve is completed.
1884 – The Indian Act is amended to outlaw cultural and religious ceremonies such as the potlatch – the major social, economic and political institution of the coastal peoples.
1887 – Premier William Smithe said, “When the white man first came among you, you were little better than wild beasts of the field.” Little wonder that this kind of racism was soon translated into narrow policies that plunged the province into a century of darkness for the Tsawwassen and other First Nations.
1889 – The federal system of permits is introduced to govern commercial fishing. Indians are effectively excluded from commercial fishing.
1890 – About 40,000 acres of land surrounding us had been developed by our non-aboriginal neighbours.
1906 – A representation of Coast Salish Chiefs went to England to fight for land claims.
1914 – Tsawwassen Chief Harry Joe submitted a petition to the McKenna McBride Commission then reviewing the province’s reserves. The Chief argued eloquently that the Tsawwassen people did not want to be forced into exile on a tiny reserve. His words went unheeded by the politicians of the day and, over time, aboriginal fishing and other rights were legislated away.
For the first half of the 20th century, Tsawwassen was largely ignored by everybody, except for a few bureaucrats. All of this would change starting in the 1950’s as commercial development and public infrastructure occurred. Ironically, this provided the basis for the development of a people with strong and committed leaders and a determination to overcome the many obstacles put in our way.
1920 – Compulsory attendance of Indian children in schools is introduced.
1923 – Ottawa permits Indians to acquire commercial fishing licences.
1927 – Ottawa prohibits Indians from organizing to discuss land claims.
1931 – The Native Brotherhood of B.C. is formed. Secret, underground discussions are launched to keep the Indian land question alive.
Despite these negative impacts, we have struggled to participate in Canadian society and its economy. Some of our members fought in World War I and World War II.
1951 – Parliament repeals the provisions of the Indian Act that outlawed the potlatch and prohibited “land claims” activity.
1958 – The BC Ferry Terminal construction is started. During causeway construction the B.C. government tore down our Longhouse. The terminal and causeway were expanded in 1973, in 1976 and again in 1991. The provincial government of the day did not bother to meaningfully consult with the Tsawwassen people. Today, more than 2.6 million cars and trucks drive the causeway every year.
1960 – Aboriginal people on reserves are granted the right to vote in federal elections. The phase-out of Indian residential schools begins.
1968 – Construction on the Roberts Bank Superport began. By 1983 it had become a 113-hectare island, with a B.C. Rail line running along the causeway. Operating around the clock, the facility handles 24 trains each day. Light and sound pollution – excessive noise and vibration – is a constant nuisance to the Tsawwassen people.
1973 – In the Calder Decision the Supreme Court of Canada splits on the question of aboriginal title.
1992 – B.C., Canada and the First Nations Summit establish the B.C. Treaty Commission to oversee treaty negotiations.
1993 – The Tsawwassen First Nation enters a formal treaty-making process.
Between 1994 and 1996 we built Tsatsu Shores, a condominium development, as an economic-development initiative. We faced stiff opposition from government agencies and municipal politicians at every turn. When Delta refused to provide water and sewer for the development we were left with no option but to provide our own services. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans unsuccessfully tried to prosecute us for building a tertiary sewage treatment and reverse osmosis water treatment plant – while, at the same time, the department permitted other governments to dump raw human waste and industrial sewage into the Fraser River, Boundary Bay, Burrard Inlet and the Strait of Georgia from dozens of outfall pipes.
1995 – We began construction of a new Longhouse on our reserve. Completed in 1997, the structure is used to practice and protect our culture and traditions. Activities inside include “namings,” memorials, winter dancing and feasts unique to Coast Salish peoples. Prior to this, it had been almost 50 years our community had been without a Longhouse and we had to practice our culture ‘underground’. Construction was completed two years later.
1995 – TFN completes Stage 2 of treaty process.
1996 – The last Residential School in Canada is finally closed.
1998 – Tsawwassen successfully negotiates ‘Roberts Bank Back-up Lands Agreement,’ successfully preserving crown land for negotiations.
1999 – TFN completes Stage 3 of the treaty process.
2003 – On July 9, Tsawwassen and the provincial and federal governments initial the Agreement in Principle (AIP).
2003 – On Dec. 10 members of the Tsawwassen First Nation vote overwhelmingly to approve the AIP that could lead to the first urban treaty in the province.
2004 – In March, Chief Kim Baird formally signed the AIP.
2007 – Treaty negotiations are finalized, the agreement is ratified, and a transition period is set.
2009 – On April 3, 2009, the Tsawwassen First Nation implements its Final Agreement, and becomes self-governing. The existing Indian Act government is transitioned, and the first election of the new Legislature is called.