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Cultural sharing of Squamish, Lil’wat Nations

As part of Celebration 2010, First Nations showcase artisans, performers and speakers at cultural awareness evening

By Nicole Fitzgerald

How much do you know about the First Nations communities neighbouring Whistler?

First Nations culture and traditions are often kept private to outsiders. However, as part of the Celebration 2010 festivities, residents can meet nation members – artisans, dancers and officials – as part of a cultural awareness evening.

While the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations await the building of the 30,000 square foot, three-storey cultural centre slated to open in the summer of 2007 in the Upper Village, the two nations will share their traditions and culture in the build-up to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games with the Cultural Centre Celebration 2010 on Friday, Feb. 24 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons Resort.

"We just want the community of Whistler to be aware of what is going on in our nations," said Linda Calla, project manager of the So7ez Society.

The non-profit society was formed by the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations to fundraise and oversee the completion of the cultural centre under the direction of both nations’ members.

Last September, the society hosted the centre’s groundbreaking ceremony, celebrating with the construction of a traditional 40-foot canoe, which will be showcased at the centre once completed.

Guests at the cultural centre celebration can talk with Jonathan Joe, one of two artists who carved the canoe, to learn more about First Nations handicraft as well as browse the works of other artists and witness live traditional performances.

From the Lil’wat Nation, elder Vera Edmonds will demonstrate cedar basket weaving, Johnny Jones will display rock painting, arrowheads and Istken, Lex Joseph will host storytelling and Shelia Bikadi will provide insight into herbology. Lois Joseph will lead the Iswalh Dancers in drumming, dance and singing.

From the Squamish Nation, Yule Baker and Jodie Bloomfield will exhibit carving and painting, and Lil Rivers will demonstrate traditional wool weaving. Sheryl Rivers will lead the Sna7em Dancers in drumming, dance and singing.

Short talks will also provide insight into the two nations with guest speakers including hereditary chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation who will give an update on the centre’s progression; Squamish and Lil’wat youth ambassadors Shawna Apodaca and Alison Pascal who will share a brief history on the Ambassador Program; and Lex Joseph of the Lil’wat Nation who will speak on the Spo7ez story.

The evening will include an opening and closing prayer from elder Martina Pierre.

The evening includes light refreshments. Admission is free. Everyone welcome.