Kwantlen First Nation

Kwantlen First Nation is a First Nations band government in British Columbia, Canada, located primarily on McMillan Island near Fort Langley.[1] The Kwantlen people traditionally speak the Downriver dialect of Halkomelem,[2] one of the Salishan family of languages.

Kwantlen First Nation

Kwantlen First Nation Salmon Ceremony.jpg
Location of Kwantlen in Metro Vancouver
Location of Kwantlen in Metro Vancouver
Coordinates: 49°10′06.78″N 122°34′47.15″W / 49.1685500°N 122.5797639°W / 49.1685500; -122.5797639Coordinates: 49°10′06.78″N 122°34′47.15″W / 49.1685500°N 122.5797639°W / 49.1685500; -122.5797639
Country Canada
Province British Columbia
 • TypeBand council
 • Hereditary ChiefMarilyn Gabriel
 • Land5.59 km2 (2.16 sq mi)
 • Total301

The Kwantlen are a Stó:lō people (an ethnicity which includes the nearby Katzie and Kwikwetlem First Nations among many others throughout British Columbia's Lower Mainland region), though as of June 2018, Kwantlen withdrew from the Sto:lo Tribal Council and currently operates as an independent Nation.


The events and shape of Kwantlen history and culture pre and post-contact is inseparable from that of the Sto:lo people as a whole. Prior to European contact, the Kwantlen were one of the most populous First Nations of the Lower Fraser and the leading faction of the Sto:lo people. Kwantlen occupied many significant village sites throughout their territory, including settlements in current day New Westminster, Surrey, Langley, Maple Ridge, and Mission. According to anthropologist Charles Hill-Tout, the main village of the Kwantlen people was sχəyəməɬ in what is now known as New Westminster. Directly across the River on the Surrey side was the Summer fishing village known as qəqəyt. Another key area of Kwantlen territory is the Stave River valley that was and continues to be important for hunting, trapping, cedar bark stripping, fishing, and other cultural uses.[3]

After European contact, the Kwantlen moved their main settlement upriver from New Westminster to Fort Langley after it was established in 1829 by the Hudson's Bay Company. The Kwantlen sought to control and maintain a trading advantage with the HBC in Fort Langley. The importance of the Kwantlen to the British settlement at Fort Langley became evident when Hudson's Bay Company men at the Fort joined Kwantlen warriors in repelling an attack by the Euclataws of Quadra Island - the victory of combined Kwantlen and British forces helped bring an end to slave raids on the lower Fraser by northern tribes, and is the only time British and Indigenous forces fought side by side in British Columbia. Kwantlen's importance diminished after the formation of the colony of British Columbia, and diminished further after British Columbia joined Canada, and their affairs were turned over to the administration of an Indian Agent appointed by the government in Ottawa.

Origin of the NameEdit

In early European records, the Kwantlen people are referred to as the Quoitlen, Quaitlines, and other variations on these spellings. In the late-1800's the Kwantlen First Nation became known to non-Natives as the "Langley Indian Band", a name which became official, and was used by the Canadian Federal Department of Indian Affairs until 1994. In June 1994, Chief Marilyn Gabriel reclaimed the traditional name of Kwantlen for her people and community which was marked by a traditional ceremony. Kwantlen Polytechnic University was granted permission to use the Kwantlen Name by the late Sto:lo Grand Chief Joe Gabriel. The name "Kwantlen" means "Tireless Runner" in the Halkomelem language.

Governance controversyEdit

In February 2019, an investigative report[4] in the Walrus Magazine written by a Kwantlen band member discussed the band's unusual form of hereditary government. Unlike most First Nations, the Kwantlen First Nation has no elections for any governing body, all positions of responsibility are appointed by hereditary chief Marilyn Gabriel. In response to the report, several community members formed the Committee of the Kwantlen People, and on March 7th presented a petition to the Kwantlen government asking for a new, written, governance code and elections[5]. On March 15th, 2019, the band administration published a letter, addressed to all band members agreeing to some of the committee's requests[6]. On April 30th, 2019, the band began the process of creating a new governance code.

Modern dayEdit

The Kwantlen First Nation is a progressive community administered by the hereditary chief and council and advised by the decisions of a formal Elders Advisory Committee that meets once a month. With this guidance, the community has seen a cultural resurgence and robust economic growth. Some examples of this cultural resurgence include the opening of a new Cultural Centre, a renewed focus on learning Halkomelem, and the annual First Salmon Ceremony. Kwantlen is Operational under the First Nations Land Management Act which through the Kwantlen Land Code, enables Kwantlen to opt-out of 34 Sections of the Indian Act related to the management of reserve lands.

Economic growth within the community is primarily the result of Seyem' Qwantlen Business Group, comprising five limited partnerships and two non-profits wholly owned by the Kwantlen First Nation.

These entities are:

  • Seyem' Qwantlen Business Management Ltd
  • Seyem' Qwantlen Development Ltd-LP
  • Seyem' Qwantlen Land Development Ltd-LP
  • Seyem' Qwantlen Resources Ltd-LP
  • Seyem' Qwantlen Construction
  • Seyem' Qwantlen Harbour Authority
  • Seyem' Qwantlen Arts and Cultural Society

Under these companies Seyem' Qwantlen runs a number of diverse businesses, including Lelem Arts and Cultural Cafe, Sxwimele Gift Shop, Licensed Security, and Coast Salish Technologies.

In addition to these business ventures, Seyem' Qwantlen is also involved in a number of heritage and stewardship activities which are designed to improve local fisheries, wildlife and habitat, and bring awareness to the wider non-Native community of the Kwantlen People and their rich culture.

Indian ReservesEdit

The band administers six Indian Reserves:[7]

The band also shares the Peckquaylis Indian Reserve with 20 other bands. It is the former St. Mary's Indian Residential School just east of Mission and is now a cultural, government, and aboriginal business centre.


The band's population is 301. 72 band members live on reserve, the majority on the main reserve on McMillan Island.[8][9]


  1. ^ Indian and Northern Affairs Canada First Nation Detail Archived 2010-06-22 at the Wayback Machine
  2. ^ Kwantlen First Nation website: history page
  3. ^ Kwantlen First Nation website: history page
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Indian and Northern Affairs Canada Reserves/Settlements/Villages Detail Archived 2012-03-16 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Branch, Government of Canada; Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; Communications (2008-11-03). "Home". Retrieved 2018-12-29.
  9. ^ Reconciliation, Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and. "First Nations Negotiations - Province of British Columbia". Retrieved 2018-12-29.

External linksEdit

Further readingEdit