Gabriola is one of the major Southern Gulf Islands in the Straight of Georgia (also known as the Salish Sea or Gulf of Georgia), located between Vancouver Island and the Mainland of British Columbia, Canada.
The Gulf Islands include both Northern and Southern islands; in the North we have Denman, Hornby, Lasqueti, Texada, and Quadra, and in the South is Galiano, Maine, Pender (North and South), Saltspring, Saturna, Penelakut, Thetis, Valdes, and Gabriola, as well as smaller islands directly adjacent Gabriola including Decourcy, Mudge, Ruxton and numerous others.
Gabriola is part of the Regional District of Nanaimo. The RDN is on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island. It is bordered to the south by the Cowichan Valley Regional District, to the west by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, and to the northwest by the Comox Valley Regional District.
It is important to note that this entire area including the east coast of Southern Vancouver Island and the Southern West Coast of mainland British Columbia including the city of Vancouver and east to Chilliwack and Mission, is unceded Coast Salish Territory. Unceded means that this land was never surrendered, relinquished or handed over in any way. Maps of these territories can be found on the Indigenous Territories page of the SIMON FRASER PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP website or the First Nations Land Rights and Environmentalism in British Columbia site. In 2014 Vancouver acknowledged that it was situated on unceded lands but we have a long way to go to decolonize and offer reparations.
Gabriola Island in particular was home to the Snunéymuxw First Nation, Nanaimo being an Anglicized version of that name. From their wikipedia page:
The Snunéymuxw First Nation (pronounced [snʊˈneɪməxʷ]) is currently located in and around Nanaimo on east-central Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Although the Snunéymuxw now only have a total reserve land base of 266 hectares, divided into small, separated reserves, they once occupied a wide region of south-central Vancouver Island where they lived for more than 5,000 years. Snunéymuxw Territory on the eastern coast of Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, and the Fraser River in the British Columbia was in the center of Coast Salish territory. Their language is the Hul’qumi’num language.
I acknowledge that my house is located on unceded Coast Salish Territory, specifically of the Snunéymuxw First Nation, and in many ways I feel very conflicted about this. My home is actually very near to the former village that housed several thousand people on False Narrows between 0-1000CE, now known as El Verano Drive. When I walk the trails on Gabriola and see petroglyphs on the rocks it is a reminder that there were people established here first that were removed by force when this region was colonized. The population of the Snunéymuxw declined drastically because of smallpox and other diseases brought to North America by Europeans.
You can read more about the Coast Salish Peoples on their Wikipedia Page.