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Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre’s Cheximiya member leads youth with pride

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) embodies the spirit of partnership between two unique Nations who wish to preserve, grow, and share their traditional cultures
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Cheximiya Allison Burns Joseph.

As Manager of the Indigenous Youth Ambassadors Program at the SLCC, Cheximiya Allison Burns Joseph has much to be proud of. Joseph took the program herself in 2006, joined the team of staff in 2008 when the Centre opened, and now leads the program.

“I’m the lead contact for the program, I facilitate training, the hiring, co-manage the cultural team and communications,” she says. “My job is amazing to tell you the truth.”

The Indigenous Youth Ambassadors Program was created for youth aged 16-30 and is open to “all Indigenous people living in our Territories, the Sea-to-Sky corridor, and the Lower Mainland,” Joseph says. “I am so excited each and every morning to wake up and go to work,” she says, adding “right now our program is funded by Service Canada, and we do two cohorts per year until 2023.”

When asked what her take is on being a woman in the business she’s chosen, Joseph tells us that “Indigenous communities revere women, they tend to look at women as teachers, our artforms and other traditions get passed on through our knowledge keepers, who are women.”

At the SLCC, the youth ambassadors are in fourteen-week programs, where Joseph’s passion for weaving is proudly shared and taught. “It was almost a loss artform,” and she is committed to seeing that doesn’t happen.

Joseph says that taking the program herself in her youth, “made a huge shift in my life and I knew I needed to be connected with our culture, and here I am thirteen years later, managing and working my way up.” Once connected to the SLCC, Joseph was mentored by Chepximiya Siyam’ Chief Janice George and her husband, both credited for “bringing back the artform of weaving for our Squamish people.”

“It was amazing to have her as such a role model in my life, as she is so powerful, not just as a leader but as a knowledge keeper for our people,” Joseph says. “Chief Janice George is the only female chief I’ve been connected with, and as we are a patrilineal community I gravitated to her, since she was thriving in an area that was dominated by men.”

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre embodies the spirit of partnership between two unique Nations who wish to preserve, grow, and share their traditional cultures. Located on six forested acres along Fitzsimmons Creek in Whistler’s Upper Village, the SLCC provides visitors with the opportunity to explore the heritage and living culture of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations.

Visit slcc.ca for more information.

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