Long before Captain George Vancouver, the city's namesake, mapped the coastline of British Columbia, the Coast Salish First Nations lived here. The Vancouver area is traditional Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh territory, and these traditional lands include Stanley Park where the Brockton Point totem poles show work by various First Nations artists. The park is also the site of Klahowya Village, where local First Nations groups give cultural performances and the miniature train ride weaves a story that's ideal for young children.
To see more totem poles, visit the Museum of Anthropology on the University of British Columbia campus. Outside, a group of 10 totems stands before a backdrop of mountains and water. Inside the museum, artworks, artifacts, and more totem poles piece together the histories of world cultures alongside works by artists like Haida carver Bill Reid. There is also a downtown gallery, the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art, dedicated to works by this master.
If you arrived via the Vancouver International Airport, you will have likely already spotted some exceptional first nations art. Even if not flying, the airport is worth the visit for the art -- which include Bill Reid's The Jade Canoe, also picture on the $20 bill.
In Whistler, visit the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre for a guided tour with a member of the Squamish or Lil'wat nations. From the canoe in the Great Hall to hands-on activities like cedar bracelet making, the museum is about a 90-minute stop. At the on-site café, taste bannock (an unleavened bread) and bison tacos while admiring the gallery-quality artworks.