By Chantal Gallant, Actor-Interpreter
A Muddy Utopia On Unceded Lands
Oozing from the shores of the Maplewood Mudflats is a tale waiting to be told… The story of the mudflat squatters. In the late-1960s and early-1970s, a young group of Canadians decided to call the mudflats their home.
The Maplewood Mudflats is on the unceded lands and waters of the Tsleil-Waututh and Coast Salish People. The site includes a 96-hectare intertidal area composed of mudflats and salt marsh. A 30-hectare upland area features deciduous and mixed forest, rough grassland, and freshwater marsh habitats. More than 250 species of birds have been observed here to date.
Back in the late-1960s however, a group of young folk tried a different way of living set up in stilt-supported shacks over the tidal mud. The result was a hippie paradise; a community living at a slower pace, surrounded by fresh air, coastal wildlife, and lush vegetation.
The Squatter Question
District of North Vancouver municipal officials and some community members were not so keen on the squatters. It was an area primed for development and many thought that the squatters didn’t belong on the flats. Bulldozers were fired up, but the squatters stood their ground.
Over many months the battle raged on the ground, in municipal halls and through media. Then, in December 1971, District officials set fire to the shacks, and the squatter era ended almost as quickly as it began.
Stories of Belonging on the North Shore
Immerse yourself into the story with our actor-interpreter created video (shown above), part of our tour on The VR Voyage: Stories of Belonging on the North Shore. The Coast Salish connection to the North Shore is discussed throughout the tour.
Educators, if you’d like to teach your students more about the mudflat ecosystem, check out our Connecting with History Through Drama activity guide for secondary students. Students will explore life on the mudflats through drama activities and archival material.
Mudflats Living (1972), directed by Robert Fresco and Kris Paterson, is available for viewing on the NFB website. Please note that this documentary does contain nudity/sexuality. Viewer discretion is advised.
The video “Stories of Belonging: Maplewood Mudflats” was created and performed by Chantal Gallant. Directed by Jen-Boyes Manseau. Filming and editing by Orange Pulp Projects.
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.