New signs of cultural dialogue 

Squamish and Lil’wat invite public to join in celebration

What: Celebration 2010

What: Skwxwú7mesh Lil’wat7ul Cultural Centre Celebration

When: Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2 p.m.

Where: Four Seasons Resort

By Nicole Fitzgerald

At a corner of Blackcomb Way and Lorimer Road, a significant convergence is about to join two normally separate roads — those of the First Nations peoples and the general public.

The Skwxwú7mesh Lil’wat7ul ( Squamish Lil’wat) Cultural Centre represents more than a physical meeting place, it’s an open conversation between societies often disconnected.

“We want to create the opportunity for interaction between the general public and the Squamish and Lil’wat peoples,” said Bill Williams, hereditary chief and elected councillor of the Squamish Nation. Williams, formally called telálsemkin siyám, is also a spokesman for the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre Society.

“It’s needed to showcase both our respective cultures, a place where the general public can learn more about who we are and where we come from.”

While the centre’s completion is still more than a year away, members of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations invite the public to investigate that interaction by learning more about the centre on Tuesday, Feb. 27 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. at the Four Seasons Resort as part of Celebration 2010.

The get-together includes a brand launch, which will reveal the centre’s new logo and marketing materials such as information brochures.

“It’s a good reflection of who we are,” Williams said of the logo that was created with input from Squamish and Lil’wat elders. “It reflects our cultures equally in its representation.”

The public will learn more about the different components of the 31,000 square foot building that overlooks Fitzsimmons Creek and the Whistler Valley.

The centre will house a museum that looks at both the past and future of the First Nations people as well as an art gallery showcasing authentic Squamish and Lil’wat artwork — contemporary and traditional. Food services, gift shop, rental space, arts and crafts programming, botanical garden with native herbs, and an eco-tour booking centre will also be located at the centre.

“It will be a good area for receptions, wine and cheese events for different groups looking for a different ambiance than a hotel,” Williams said. “We wanted to involve our membership with ecotourism, so more adventurous (visitors) who want to go out on our land and hear the stories of what happened to the land around the Whistler area can.”

Travelers driving up the Sea to Sky Highway will also learn more about the centre and two nations as well. At the Tuesday reception, centre members as well as Minister of Tourism Stan Hagen, will present the designs for the Cultural Journey First Nations highway sign program that will follow Highway 99 from Vancouver to Whistler.

There will be 22 stops with signs and/or kiosks along the way, which will provide information on the centre and the nations who inhabit the land.

“The kiosks will explain a bit more about what people are looking at; what a significant view or mountain is (in relation to the Squamish Nation) and encourage them to go to the cultural centre to learn more about who we are.”

Williams said signs leading from Mount Currie to Whistler are in the works.

Along with First Nations, tourism and government representatives will attend the event with the general public invited to join in the celebration.

“It’s a celebration of the Squamish and Lil’wat trying to meet the general public,” Williams said.

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