What It Means to Write on “Unceded Coast Salish Territory”

A brief explainer for visitors to my Medium profile.

Li Charmaine Anne
3 min readFeb 25, 2020
Panorama Ridge, the site of quintessential postcard-perfect British Columbia photos. Also on the traditional, unceded territory of the Squamish Nation. (Photo by Randy Tarampi on Unsplash)

If you’ve landed on my Medium profile, first of all, thank you for checking me out!

You may have noticed that on my profile, I am a Canadian writer writing on “unceded Coast Salish territory.” If you are from anywhere outside of British Columbia, you may be confused as to what this means.

Let me offer a brief explainer. My home province of BC is a unique one in Canada because much of the land the province sits on was never formally ceded — or given over — to European settlers. (Elsewhere in Canada, most—but not all—Indigenous Nations have signed treaties. How fair these treaties are is another story.)

In other words, there are many places in BC that aren’t exactly Canada.

Now, a bit of context: Canada has a long, ugly history of treating Indigenous Peoples terribly. Despite our international reputation as a nice, polite, and welcoming bunch, this country has a dark side. The residential school system, for example — where Indigenous children were taken away from their families and subjected to horrific abuse to “kill the Indian” within them — lasted for generations. In fact, the last of these places didn’t close until 1996.

This is a sobering background, but it is part of the reason why more and more British Columbians and other Canadians do what are called Land Acknowledgements for things like events, meetings, conferences, and in author profiles. For example, my alma mater the University of British Columbia often begins events by saying: “We acknowledge that we are on the traditional, unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tseil-Waututh people.” The xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tseil-Waututh) are distinct nations whose lands the campus occupies, but they are often grouped together as “Coast Salish” peoples. Because I can only have so many characters in my Medium profile, I use the less-accurate term “Coast Salish.”

Today, Canadians are beginning to reconcile with the fact that the country has been incredibly unjust to its original peoples. This has led to initiatives for reconciliation and decolonization. Land acknowledgements are very, very small acts towards reconciliation, but it’s the least I can do on a limited profile.

This is an incredibly watered-down explanation of what reconciliation and decolonization is, and I encourage you to research more into this topic. I hesitate to write further because I am not an Indigenous person and cannot speak for my Indigenous neighbours. But I do hope to spread more awareness on this issue. Decolonization is especially important at the time of my writing this piece because of an ongoing dispute between the Wet’suwet’en Nation and the Canadian government over a proposed pipeline that would cut through traditional, unceded territory.

Decolonization is an uncomfortable topic for many, including settlers of colour like myself, but I think it’s important to acknowledge the mistakes of the past in order to never repeat them in the future. And all humans, no matter their background, deserve basic human rights — something Indigenous people in Canada still struggle to attain.

I love British Columbia. I have been lucky enough to travel widely to many beautiful places, but BC remains my favourite place on Earth. No doubt people have felt deeply connected to this incredible landscape for millennia. The only thing I strongly dislike about BC is its name — incredibly colonial, despite much of it being unceded territory.



Li Charmaine Anne

(She/They) Author on unceded Coast Salish territories (Vancouver, Canada). At work on first novel. Get links to read my stuff for free: https://bit.ly/2MleRqJ