A Vancouver time travelogue brought to you by Past Tense.
Native men worked as longshoremen on Burrard Inlet since before Vancouver was incorporated. In many cases, several generations of men from the same family worked on the docks beginning as young as thirteen or fourteen years old. Members of several of the families that lived in Stanley Park earned money through longshoring, including William Nahanee, pictured in front holding a bag in this 1889 photo. Numerous indigenous leaders worked as longshoremen, including Andy Paull, Chief Dan George, Chief Simon Baker, and Chief Joe Capilano, who used money earned on the waterfront to finance a trip to London to lobby the King for the rights of BC’s First Nations in 1906.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, specialization on the waterfront roughly followed racial lines, and the work gangs comprised primarily of indigenous men became known for their skill and efficiency in handling lumber. They were also the first to organize a longshoremen’s union in 1906, Local 526 of the militant Industrial Workers of the World, informally known as the “Bows and Arrows.” Although Local 526 lasted less than a year, other “Bows and Arrows” unions followed until all longshoremen became part of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union after WWII.
Source: William Nahanee and a group of longshoremen on the dock of Moodyville Sawmill by Charles S Bailey, 1889, City of Vancouver Archives #Mi P2