Weetama will grow in coming years 

Whistler’s celebration of Aboriginal culture will be an annual event.

Tourism Whistler says it was extremely pleased with the turn out for Weetama Aug. 30-Sept. 2 and will continue to work with local First Nations to improve and expand the programming.

This year’s four-day festival saw traditional song and dance performances, story telling and a marketplace of native crafts and food. The highlight of the weekend was the Traditional Feast, an evening structured around traditional ceremonies, food and dance of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations.

"We were very pleased with attendance. We actually reached our goal (for The Feast). There were about 230 people there that evening. For the first year, it’s very encouraging," says Tourism Whistler Festivals Director, Gwen Young.

"The mayor was in attendance, both First Nations were in abundance and everyone who was there provided a lot of positive feedback."

Tourism Whistler was especially conscious of presenting the festival in a manner true to the First Nations without being over-commercial. Young emphasizes her contacts from both Squamish and Mount Currie were impressed.

Lois Joseph of the Lil’wat Nation is co-ordinator and dancer for the Iswalh Dance Group that provided much of the entertainment. Joseph says it was an honour to dance and share her heritage with so many people.

"It was great to get people interested and to let them know about our traditional territory. The kids in our group especially liked having crowds from all over the world," says Joseph.

However, she would have liked to have seen more involvement of the general First Nations communities.

"It seemed that people outside the dance group didn’t really know about it. When they saw us leaving that morning to perform they wondered what was going on. I wasn’t even really sure outside of the part we were in," she says.

That comment leaves Tourism Whistler scratching its head. Details were circulated through both Nations as well as Vancouver regarding the call for performers and artisans for weeks prior to Weetama. The weekend’s program was also posted on the Squamish Nation Web site and in local newspapers.

"We received a fair response from performers in the communities. In fact, the message reached even further into the Ontario area through various data bases we used," says Young.

Tourism Whistler says it will continue to meet with First Nations representatives to re-evaluate the most effective avenues to inform and include the communities.

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