The Heather Lands are a 21-acre parcel, located between 33rd and 37th Avenues, at Heather Street. It is owned by the MST Partnership (made up of the Musqueam Indian Band, the Squamish Nation and Tsleil-Waututh Nation) and the Canada Lands Company (CLC).
The Lands were an important hunting ground for First Nations, and adjacent to a travel route for First Nations people. The rezoning of the Heather Lands was approved in May of 2022 as a development guided by a Policy Statement concerning land use, public benefits, heritage and sustainability.
For a number of years we have been raising awareness about the need to understand, and plan entire areas holistically as a cultural landscape. We feel that the Heather Lands is an important example where cultural values and traditions -in this case Indigenous values and traditions- are embedded in a new development to express and provide an experience of the heritage of a place.
As part of our outreach work to the public on heritage, we have promoted the understanding and approach of Cultural Landscapes for a number of areas in the city including Mt. Pleasant, Chinatown, and False Creek South. Cultural Landscapes emphasize the connections living communities have with place. They involve continual interactions between culture and place in day-to-day life and it is those interactions that people find meaningful. It involves a very different approach and requires an understanding of how places work and the different ways people are connected to them.
The Heather Lands is an important example of how the local nations will be creating a place that expresses their cultures, values and traditions that will offer an experience of cultures of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleiwatuth (MST) nations. This culturally relevant expression in the landscape is extremely important in bringing more local Indigenous presence back on their lands.
It is extremely instructive to learn about their ways of approaching and understanding heritage. We might take inspiration from the interactive methods, storytelling and engagement process with MST Nations community members used to shape the interpretive plan to see how our planning and community engagement processes could be approached differently. The Cultural Interpretive Plan for the development provides many insights about the knowledge and ideas of MST peoples used to tell the story of the Heather Lands. It reinforces the idea of how important storytelling is and how stories are connected to place. The Plan opens with:
“The Cultural Interpretive Plan will help guide people through a living homage of the cultural heritage of this place, and the traditional territories of which it is a part. The stories and ideas shared by the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations are at the heart of this Cultural Interpretive Plan and will one day be at the heart of the new Heather Lands neighbourhood.”
Their culture and principles are meant to touch all aspects of the Heather Lands:
“This CIP will guide design in terms of how MST culture will be imprinted on the site within ecology, landscape, public spaces including parks and pedestrian areas, mobility, public art, food systems, rain/ground/potable water, commercial uses, waste management, housing, building and architectural character, lighting, energy systems, resilient design elements, and more. It communicates culture and ways of being.”
In our experience working with different communities in Vancouver, communicating culture and ways of being is something that many communities are working hard towards. The Heather Lands provides a rich and inspiring way to think about and approach place and to broaden our ways of thinking.
Link to the design guidelines and Cultural Interpretive Plan
Link to City of Vancouver Public Hearing page
Our previous entries on the Fairmont Building are here:
Photo credit City of Vancouver
We acknowledge the financial assistance of the Province of British Columbia