Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm

səl̓ilw̓ət seen from the north fence line of Kushiro Park. Photo by Bryan Myles.
Traveling səl̓ilw̓ət via canoe on a Takaya Tour. Photo by Ariane Colenbrander.
View of səl̓ilw̓ət from the end of the north arm looking south. Photo by Gabriel George.

səl̓ilw̓ət is the hən̓q̓əmin̓əm̓ (Hun’qumyi’num) name for Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm, and is the place from which the səlilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) people derive their name. The commonly used term Tsleil-Waututh is an anglicised version of səl̓ilw̓ət with a possessive suffix. The literal translation of Tsleil-Waututh is “The People of the Inlet”.

Until the early 20th century, the səlilwətaʔɬ primarily travelled on the water using cedar canoes, and were sustained by the waters of the inlet in many ways. The rich marine resources of səl̓ilw̓ət such as salmon, herring, clams, and birds were an important part of the people’s diet, and the success of daily activities such as marine hunting and harvesting relied upon detailed knowledge of the seasons, and associated tides and currents.

For generations, the səlilwətaʔɬ have hunted, gathered, and managed the landscape, and made their homes in the watersheds of səl̓ilw̓ət. Today, the people continue to inhabit their traditional territories and embody a sacred trust and commitment to care for their lands and waters.

Before much of the industrial and residential development we see today, there were numerous trails within the territory connecting villages, families, and resource gathering areas. Oral histories, supported by the archaeological record, tell of the existence of lookout stations and large defensive structures that fenced in villages and would have been instrumental in protecting the səlilwətaʔɬ from external raiders.   

Additional information

  • Bouchard, Randy, and Dorothy Kennedy. 1986  Squamish Nation Land Use And Occupancy. Report submitted to Squamish Nation Chiefs and Council, BC Indian Language Project, Victoria, British Columbia.
  • George, Gabriel. 2018  Personal Communication. Tsleil-Waututh Nation 3075 Takaya Drive North  Vancouver, BC.
  • Matthews, John S. 1955  Conversations with Khatsahlano. Compiled by The City Archivist  Vancouver, British Columbia.
  • Morin, Jesse. 2015  Tsleil-Waututh Nation’s History, Culture and Aboriginal Interests in  Eastern Burrard Inlet (Redacted Version). Report prepared for Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, Toronto, Ontario. Accessed online August 5, 2015,