British Columbia

A guide to First Nations plant use in Stanley Park

Stanley Park attracts thousands of visitors every day but many of those who use the seawall or stroll through the lush green forests aren’t always aware of the area’s Indigenous history.

‘We are still here and we exist’ says park guide

The tours, provided by The Stanley Park Ecology Society, show an often overlooked side to the park. (David Horemans/CBC)

Stanley Park attracts thousands of visitors every day but many of those who use the seawall or stroll through the lush green forests aren't always aware of the area's Indigenous history.

The Stanley Park Ecology Society is hoping to change that with its seasonal walking tours that highlight Indigenous history and traditional plant use on the waterfront, led by guides of First Nations descent.

Guide Starla Bob — also known as Kushi opi mani wi — showed CBC reporter Margaret Gallagher around for a preview earlier this week.

Starla Bob is one of the guides with First Nations lineage at Stanley Park. (David Horemans/CBC)

"This is First Nations territory, this is our home," Bob said. "My grandfather's great-grandfather resided right over here and had a long house over here by Deadman's Island," she said, referring to the small island off the south side of the park.

Bob said it is crucial not to overlook the history of the area and, given her background, she's in a good position to share that history with park visitors.

"It's important to me, if anyone is going to be doing it — not necessarily me — but somebody with First Nations lineage," she said.

Starla Bob shows a salmonberry (in foreground) in Stanley Park. (David Horemans/CBC)

'We are still here and we exist'

Standing near Lumberman's Arch, north of the Vancouver Aquarium, Bob compared the grassy fields scattered with picnic tables to the Xwayxway village of the past.

"Before it looked somewhat similar," she said. "It seems as though this picnic area was built on top of what was already a gathering area for the three First Nations tribes that resided here at Stanley Park."

The picnic area in Stanley Park is on a former gathering site, said Starla Bob. (David Horemans/CBC )

Bob pointed out plants that are edible or have medicinal properties, including salmonberries, deer ferns and bull kelp. Plants aren't picked during the tour, but Bob identifies them so people can collect them outside the park in a sustainable manner.

Starla Bob holds up two distinct ferns and explains the differences between them. (David Horemans/CBC)

"I just want to share who we are as First Nations people, that we are still here and we exist, and share some of the beautiful knowledge that we have," Bob said.

To hear the full walk-along tour with Starla Bob, click on the audio link below:

With files from Margaret Gallagher.