A Story of What Came Before
Approximately 10,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, the Sumas Glacier retreated, leaving behind a rich land, thickly forested with great fir, hemlock and cedar trees, and waters teeming with life. A land of abundance which provided the first peoples with everything they needed to thrive - food from land and water and materials with which to build homes, and fashion tools and clothing. The Coast Salish peoples - specifically the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam nations, prospered in harmony with nature for many thousands of years, here in this place we now call Vancouver.
The land where Strange Fellows Brewing sits today, was once an area of tidal mud flats known as Skwa-chàys on the eastern shore of the waterway called Snauq*. Known these days as False Creek, 150 years ago the waterway reached all the way east to where Clark Drive currently lies and was the traditional shared fishing and hunting grounds of the three nations.
The mud flat’s eelgrass was haven to eulachon (smelts) and herring, which nourished larger fish, birds and mammals such as otters, seals, whales, bears and wolves. Salmon spawned in the many streams that fed into Snauq and migrating birds inhabited the mud flats in the spring and fall. Elk and deer grazed in meadows surrounding the flats and beavers were busy in the many swamps and lakes that fed the streams. Snauq’s shores also provided clams, oysters, mussels, sea asparagus, berries, mushrooms, camas, and many other plants that were harvested for food and medicine.
The name Skwa-chàys - meaning “hole-in-bottom” - described the nature of the mud flats, peppered as they were with many underground springs which the Indigenous peoples believed to be gateways to the spirit world and so regarded the area as a sacred place of transformation.
Unfortunately, the transformation that ultimately took place was not a spiritual one. When Europeans began to settle the area in the late 1800’s, the ancient forests were clear-cut for lumber and housing, and the streams became blocked and polluted. The settlers did not recognize the value of the rich ecosystem they were destroying, and the east end of Snauq became home to sawmills and trading ports that fed the European appetite for resources and polluted the once-so-abundant waterway. In just a few years, False Creek evolved into the “industrial heartland” of a new city, and its fate was sealed in the early 1900’s when its marshy east end was in-filled to make more room for the Canadian Pacific Railway. Since then, the area has continued to evolve to what we know today and will continue to do so in the years to come, and we hope its future transformations will make some amends for past wrongs.
Strange Fellows Brewing acknowledges that we occupy and benefit from the unceded lands of the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish, and Musqueam nations. We want to share this short history of the land beneath our feet with the hope that others can learn some of what was lost with the foundation of the city of Vancouver. This is only one very small facet of the deep cultural losses suffered by the First Nations as a result of colonization, as well as by Mother Earth herself.
* Snauq -meaning sandbar - was named for the sandbars situated at the mouth of the waterway where Granville Island is today.