When Captain Edward Stamp took his first measures to establish a sawmill on Burrard Inlet in 1865, he consulted with individuals like Colonial Secretary Arthur N. Birch and Chartres Brew, Chief Magistrate of the Crown Colony of British Columbia’s first Legislative Council. Stamp wanted as much timbered land as necessary on Burrard Inlet, the Fraser River, Howe Sound and the adjoining coast to be held by his company on a twenty-one year lease at one cent per acre.
He did not consult with Indigenous members of the Squamish, Musqueam, or Tsleil-Waututh communities, who had lived a well-ordered life in the region since time immemorial.
Stamp’s logging crews began cutting down vast quantities of ancient-growth trees that had grown to profusion over the course of years. The trees represented lumber and cash, nothing more. Logging operations were sweeping and irreverent. Regions once thick with forest were clear-cut to the ground. Wildlife was displaced, unneeded foliage burned.
Indigenous men of the region were given the opportunity to work in the sawmill—the only recorded semblance of compensation for a way of life disrupted. The Squamish community of Kumkumlye, adjacent to the sawmill townsite, was gradually assimilated and ultimately demolished.
Over the years, certain newcomers made an effort to integrate and co-exist with the Indigenous inhabitants. Some intermarried, like Hawaiian millhand Joe Nahanee. Townsite housewives Emma Alexander and Emily Patterson offered medical care. Storekeeper Calvert Simson supplied and attended one of the last potlatchs at Kumkumlye. Indigenous locals often did business at Hastings Mill Store, like Chinalset (Jericho Charley), who delivered barley and oats by barge canoe from the store to local logging camps. His wife Qhwy-wat paddled over daily with fresh milk from her six cows grazing near their Chaythoos (Prospect Point) home. The multi-lingual Chinook jargon was used for trade and commerce among widely diverse cultures.
But there is no denying that the Old Hastings Mill Store and those customers it served bore witness to the travesties of an era…injustice, greed, exploitation, disease and unbending mindset. The museum that remains today quietly marks a turbulent past.
Native Daughters of BC and Friends of Old Hastings Mill Store Museum cannot erase the wrongdoings of another time period. However, we can pledge to move forward in a shared commitment with our Indigenous hosts, upon whose traditional territory the building stands, to tell the full story. Quite humbly, and with deep respect, we extend our gratitude…
We acknowledge that the museum is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.