For up to 10,000 years before the arrival of the first European explorers, current-day Vancouver and the surrounding region was home to members of the Coast Salish First Nations peoples. The First Nations remain a vibrant part of Vancouver today, comprising nearly three percent of the population and making enormous contributions to artistic and cultural life.
Perhaps the best way to understand the rich history of Vancouver's Aboriginal peoples is a visit to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. Thousands of artifacts, from totem poles to canoes, blankets and carvings, tell the story of British Columbia's original inhabitants. Meanwhile, contemporary aboriginal art and carvings are on display at galleries around the city, including the esteemed Bill Reid Gallery, which features the work of Canada's most famous First Nations sculptor.
But Aboriginal culture certainly isn't confined to museums and galleries. Talking Stick, a 13-day citywide celebration of Aboriginal performance and art, is held each winter and features local and international musicians, dancers, performers and storytellers. Also, a First Nations village is set up each summer in Stanley Park, complete with traditional food, crafts and cultural performances.
Finally, a range of more immersive experiences is available to visitors, from guided rides along the coast in traditional carved canoes to ceremonial salmon feasts and even bear-watching expeditions with first nations groups on nearby Vancouver Island.