Understanding Decolonization in Placemaking Practices: A Settler’s Attempt

  1. Placemaking hierarchies
A large steel sculpture shaped roughly like a picture frame stands on a lawn, framing English Bay and downtown Vancouver.
Image 1
A 2-story advertisement on an modern office building that reads “You Belong Here” and features a Caucasian man in a suit.
Image 2
An informational poster in Vanier Park with multiple acts of graffiti, including “Senakw”, scrawled in permanent marker.
Image 3
  1. Unlearning
A large lawn with Kitsilano in the background, a pond in the mid-ground, vegetation around the pond’s shoreline, and trees.
Image 4
A 2m-tall truncated concrete pyramid being painted white with a large red “E” by two people in red coveralls.
Image 5
Letter-sized posters that say “Missing: Senakw” with colonial history taped on existing signage in Vanier Park.
Image 6
  • Lobby to give the land back to the Indigenous groups that once called it home
  • Rename the park to Senakw (or Snauq), or another name decided by the Indigenous community
  • Use signage and educational programming to acknowledge the colonial history of the site
  • Allow space in the site for Indigenous people to tell their own stories of ongoing colonial legacies
  • Set aside space for Indigenous gatherings, ceremonies and programs
  • Remove celebratory narratives of colonialism, such as existing artwork and memorials
  • Most importantly, consult with Indigenous communities, compensate them for their time, and implement their ideas; community consultation is worthless if nothing tangible comes of their labour.
  1. Though a discussion on the deceit of the treaties is beyond the scope of this paper, I would highly encourage any settler reader if you are not already familiar with them, to investigate treaty history.

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Christen Oakes

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