One place in Stanley Park, which many visitors may not notice, is Deadman’s Island. It is off limits to the general public as it is a Naval Reserve base, home to HMCS Discovery and has been since 1942.
It has a long history, stretching as far back as the first nation people that used the island.
There is evidence that the earliest natives lived on the island but it was later more commonly used as a burial site for their dead (hence the name.) They would construct cedar boxes and after placing the remains inside would then put them up in the branches of the trees. It was also said to have gotten its name from a bloody battle that took place between rival tribes, according to Chief Capilano.
In 1888 the island was used as a burial ground once again but this time it was for the victims of the smallpox epidemic that ravaged the area and was for a time used as a quarantine site for those suffering from the outbreak.
It would seem with such a history that the name given to the island is apt to say the least but it did become a place for the living again on a couple more occasions before being handed over to the military. For a number of years a squatter’s village existed on the island until 1912 when they were evicted but sometime around 1924 a second village sprung up and remained until the military took it over.
It is interesting to spend a little time looking through the Vancouver archives (http://searcharchives.vancouver.ca/) and look at some of the pictures before and after the turn of the twentieth century and see the small houses that still remained along the waters of Deadman’s Island and Brockton Point at this time.
It holds an interesting history and it is certainly a fascinating part of Stanley Park.