Geisa Maria de Paiva, Capilano University
To truly understand a community, you need to learn about its history.
When I moved to Canada four years ago, the importance of learning about my new community’s history didn’t initially occur to me. It only became a priority a few years later after I got to know North Vancouver a bit better.
Sometimes a city is only observed in the aesthetic and material parameters it is built on, such as concrete, wood, or asphalt. However, we need to look beyond this to see the city as a living organism that is constantly changing and evolving, especially through the lives and actions of its residents.
MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver (115 West Esplanade) is a great place for new residents to learn more about the local Indigenous Peoples, the first inhabitants of the area, and how the region developed after the arrival of European settlers.
Understanding Indigenous History
Before visiting MONOVA’s Industry and Enterprise exhibits, it’s more interesting for newcomers to learn about the Indigenous history of the area.
The Museum’s core exhibit gallery features exhibits and belongings that tell the story of the Indigenous Peoples who occupied these Coast Salish territories, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. I asked the Museum docent which belonging they thought was the most interesting, and to my surprise, they did not point me to an object, but to a person: Chief Dan George.
Chief Dan George played an important role in the fight for Indigenous rights, calling attention to the “accurate portrayal of Indigenous People”. He is the founder of Children of Takaya, a dance group that keeps alive and conveys the Indigenous culture through dance, song, and storytelling. Besides being an actor and advocate, Chief Dan George was an environmentalist, poet and writer, whose life is being celebrated in a travelling exhibit curated by MONOVA.
A flipbook called “First Nations Peoples and Stories” in the Museum’s Indigenous Welcome Circle also caught my eye. The flipbook is full of rich personal histories that are worth taking time to read. It is a good way to learn more about Indigenous People’s traditions, cultures and language. The stories provide new context to so many places in the area.
The Impact of European Settlers
Behind the Indigenous Welcome Circle in the Museum is a timeline, where you can learn more about the events that influenced the development of the region. Some of these historical events are illustrated with photos, from the arrival of the expedition of Captain George Vancouver, through the construction of landmarks such as the Lions Gate Bridge.
From there, you can explore the Museum to learn more about the history of The Shipyards and the Burrard Dry Dock, including St. Roch, the first vessel to traverse the Northwest Passage from west to east.
If you like interactivity like I do, the Museum of North Vancouver has a number of interactive exhibits to check out. There’s a great quiz on ‘Film and TV industry in North Vancouver’ where you can learn North Vancouver’s contributions to Hollywood North, and an interactive transportation map that outlines the evolution of the transportation network on the North Shore.
Looking To The Future
I ended my visit to MONOVA with a feeling of optimism about the future. While there have been many difficult moments in the history of this community, the Museum provides space for the community to reflect on these challenges and learn from them.
There have been many waves of newcomers to North Vancouver over the years, and through my visit to the Museum I learned that they weren’t always welcomed. As a newcomer myself, I am aware that I am only here because of the people who arrived here before me.
We are privileged to live in a place with so much natural beauty, and the Museum provides a much needed space for newcomers to feel connected to this community and think about ways we can contribute to building a better future for everyone.
New Voices Volunteer Program
Are you new to North Vancouver or new to Canada?
Through MONOVA’s New Voices volunteer program, newcomers will be able to volunteer at MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver (115 West Esplanade) and work together to develop a community exhibit or event in early 2023.
Starting September 2022, the group will meet weekly at MONOVA: Museum of North Vancouver to learn more about North Vancouver’s community and Museum collection.
This program is open to non-permanent residents, new immigrants, international students with a student visa, and working adults who wish to gain more experience in a Canadian setting. This program will be delivered in English, and everyone is welcome to attend.
For more information, click the button below or contact Andrew Hildred, Volunteer Coordinator at email@example.com.
Generously supported by Kitty Heller Memorial Fund, held at Vancouver Foundation, Deux Mille Foundation and Lohn Foundation.
During the spring of 2022, students were invited to explore the Museum of North Vancouver to create editorial content inspired by MONOVA’s Archival and Museum collections. Watch for other stories from the students to roll out over the coming months.
We rely on contributions, monthly or one-time gifts, to help MONOVA safeguard and expand our community’s archival and museum collections, build learning experiences and inspire future generations.
Donations are accepted through the Friends of the North Vancouver Museum & Archives Society, Registered Charity No. 89031 1772 RR0001.
We respectfully acknowledge that MONOVA: Museum and Archives of North Vancouver is located on the traditional lands of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations, whose ancestors have lived here for countless generations. We are grateful for the opportunity to live, work and learn with them on unceded Coast Salish Territory.