X̱wáy̓x̱way is an important village site located at the place known today as Lumberman’s Arch in Stanley Park. It is estimated that Squamish peoples lived at X̱wáy̓x̱way for over 3000 years before the Europeans arrived. There are many accounts of this settlement, which was the biggest in the area in the late 1800s. There was a huge longhouse there, over 60 meters long, where many families lived together. It is estimated that 100 people lived together in the longhouse at X̱wáy̓x̱way. Many potlaches and celebrations were held at this site.
In the 1880s the City of Vancouver decided to build a road around what they called Stanley Park, and they forced the Squamish peoples to vacate the land. They even started to chop people’s houses down while they were still inside! The Squamish people were forced to leave and go to other villages to live. A few people refused to leave, though, and one Squamish family still lived there until 1923.</p>
The name X̱wáy̓x̱way is translated as “Sx̱wáyx̱wi mask place” because it is known by local Indigenous people to be the place where the original Sx̱wáyx̱wi mask comes from. This is a very important kind of mask that can only be worn by certain people from certain families during dances that happen in private ceremonies.
There are different versions of the Sx̱wáyx̱wi mask story, but most Squamish stories say it came from near or in Áx̱achu7 (a lake near X̱wáy̓x̱way). In one version of the story, a man named Syetx̱ím̓el̓txw chopped down a tree near Áx̱achu7 to make a canoe and when the tree fell, it split in two and revealed the mask inside. In another version, Syetx̱ím̓el̓txw and his sister were walking near Áx̱achu7 and they heard a breathing sound echoing across the lake. They went near, and saw that two Sx̱wáyx̱wi masks had risen to the surface of the lake – one was a raven and the other was a duck. Other local Indigenous groups have different versions of the origin of the Sx̱wáyx̱wi masks, but they agree that they come from near X̱wáy̓x̱way.