When I was very young, I learned how to swim at Lumberman's Arch in what is known as Stanley Park, the 'jewel' in the City of Vancouver; acres of prime forest almost entirely surrounded by water. Later, as a youth, it was our favourite place to be. A few of us would hang out at the big fallen tree (at least I had thought it was a 'fallen tree, but it had been placed there by a crane in 1952, to replace another sort of 'Arch' structure which was vandalized and burnt down in 1947). It was our meeting place and rendezvous point. There were always music festivals and people playing guitar and then on summer nights there were plays and musical theatre in the outdoor Amphitheatre at Malkin Bowl, nearby. And even years later, when I was exam-stressed at university, I would drive through the busy city to get there, it was a place I felt I had to go to, just to be there. It was calming and green.
What I didn't know then, and what my modern family could not have known either, was why we went there and why we were always drawn to that particular spot out of so many other choices in the lower mainland. I truly believe it was our Grandmothers calling us home, to the place where they were born, to the place before the park was built, to the long-gone village of X̱wáýx̱way. To the place where they lived and some died, and where they were forced out of when the city of Vancouver claimed that jewel as a prize; where grainy black and yellowed photographs of bulldozers and men ripping through a midden is all that's left of the place where my ancestor Grandmothers were born.
I am grateful that I come from a family that had interaction with the settlers and visitors so fortunately there is not only written documentation of their lives and words but visual art of their likenesses, in the form of painted portraits and silent film. Through these documents, I can reach back and get to know my Grandmothers, and on most days, I speak to them, and I believe I can hear their voices calling back to me on the wind through the trees and in the waves breaking on the shore.
Many years ago my uncle began collecting information to build our family tree. A few years later, my cousin and I took over, and most recently I have been filling in as many gaps as I can from researching archival information across Canada.
Thanks to the commitment of many helpers along the way I have been able to track our family back to 1825, and move forward with them through time, to present-day Vancouver, British Columbia.
My name is Jenn Ashton and I am an artist and a writer and
I am the great great great Granddaughter of Siamelaht.
This website is one component of my journey to connect with my Sḵwx̱wú7mes family.
Thank you to all of the Elders, and my family past and present
who have accompanied me on this journey, I am so grateful.
This site is made for an all-ages audience to show some of the transformations that took place as our ancestors moved from one life to a very different life, over a matter of decades. Through the link directory and documents connecting past to present, I hope to show the airs of here's, and there's,
and how this historical shift to modernity affects us still.