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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Cultural expressions and landscape : Semiahmoo First Nation reserve Simovic, Nancy

Abstract

Landscape is a medium of expression and a reflection of the beliefs of the people who inhabit it. It carries symbolic meanings that emerge from the values by which people define themselves; values grounded in culture. These symbols stem from elements of the natural environment, stories passed on through generations, or from experiences interacting with others. The indigenous peoples of Canada have a culture rich in traditional art, ceremony, and sustainable development and holistic integration of landscape. Contemporary First Nation culture draws from this past to inform the future. This phenomenon exemplifies the necessity for cultural expression in First Nation landscapes of today. The Semiahmoo First Nation in Lower Mainland British Columbia is a Coast Salish group occupying approximately 380 acres of land on the Pacific coastline. River and estuarine habitats, significant species richness and dense vegetation characterize the area and identify the primary motive for Semiahmoo traditional encampment on its shores. Changes in the past century have included colonial settlement to the region, periods of industrial and resource economies, a decrease in band population and subsequent decline in cultural practices. Current increasing recreation and development interests have created urgency for the reawakening of cultural expression in the landscape. Initial literature research about First Nations in Northwest Canada and a biophysical analysis provided introductory information, followed by community discussions which provided a deeper understanding of the people and of the place. A design vocabulary of traditional and contemporary elements was composed to guide and unify the program and spatial components of the design. The resulting design focuses on the public realm of the Reserve clearly defining Semiahmoo identity and sense of place. Land use issues were addressed and delineated public and private areas, ecological enhancements and displayed potential for growth on the site. The design respects the bicultural interface of the Reserve while providing cultural and environmental education. The First Nation value system possesses a tangible and spiritual quality; rooted in the creatures and elements of their surroundings. Expression of the Semiahmoo peoples' beliefs and values in the landscape enriches the experiential qualities of the place and reverence for its past and future.

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