A new Graphic History Project comic from artist Tania Willard, Secwepemc Nation, and the Graphic History Collective research and writing team of Robin Folvik and Sean Carleton. This comic focuses on indigenous labour and responses to the coming of capitalism and colonialism along Burrard Inlet, which flows through the unceded traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Tsleil-Waututh Coast Salish First Nations.
While recognized at the times as some of the “best” working on the waterfront, discrimination, displacement from land, and restrictive laws increasingly appeared as more settlers arrived, the colony of British Columbia was formed, and, later, the land became part of Canada.
Within this context emerges long-standing practices of resistance and active participation in mobilized responses to defend–and maintain the right to access–the land and assert their rights within the emerging and shifting economies. Many, many examples and stories exist to illustrate this point; this comic highlights the activities and actions of longshoremen in the area now known as Vancouver and North Vancouver.
One example from the comic: led primarily by Squamish longshoremen, local 526 (the “Bows and Arrows”) of the Industrial Workers of the World formed in Vancouver in 1906, one year after the IWW formed in Chicago. Another: that same year, using monies made from longshore work, a delegation of Salish chiefs, led by Squamish longshoreman and Chief Joe Capilano, Secwepemc (Shushwap) Chief Basil David, and Kw’amutsun (Cowichan) Chief Charlie Isipaymily, left Vancouver for London to meet with King Edward VII in the very heart of the British Empire to discuss land rights, treaties, and to re-affirm previous promises made by Queen Victoria:
“Sir James Douglas … made a verbally [sic] promise to us Indians in his first survey of the land. He said for which land I have surveyed it belongs to the Indians only, that no white men shall intrude [on] your land. And for all the outside lands Her Majesty Queen Victoria will take and sell to the white people and which is taken away from the Indians will be like a fruit tree and from this fruit Her Majesty Queen Victoria will give it to the Indians for their lasting support….
The second governor Seymour also made a verbally [sic] promise in his speech that Her Majesty Queen Victoria will divide the revenue in three parts. One third to the Indians for their benefit. One third to the Crown. One third to the public for road work, etc.
Now for the last good many years standing we are expecting to receive those good promises by Her Majesty Queen Victoria. But we have not heard anything of it yet for the latest government of the province has concealed and buried it and worked all kinds of skeems [sic] to keep it hidden.”
(Motivations for Trip to England, as described in 1913 by the Chief of the Scowlitz in the central Fraser Valley)
We’re looking forward to sharing the whole comic and the rest of this history with you in the upcoming months!
We are also very grateful for the support of the Sâkêwêwak Artists’ Collective Inc (Regina, Saskatchewan) and the artist’s residency that provided space for Tania to work on this project.