Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre Nears Completion

by NationTalk on April 22, 20084688 Views

Apr 21, 08

A world-class attraction, showcasing the distinct cultures of the Squamish Nation and the Lil’wat Nation, will open in June 2008 in North America’s premier alpine resort and event site for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Located in the Upper Village of Whistler in a spectacular natural setting on a 1.76 hectare (4.35 acre) site, it is the result of a historic Protocol Agreement signed by the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation in March 2001.This Agreement committed the Nations to working together on issues of concern in their shared territories and identified three major common objectives: to respect the Nations’ current and historic presence in the region, to protect their respective Aboriginal Rights and Title, and to take advantage of the economic opportunities.

Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

This agreement, called “Partners Creating Shared Legacies from the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games”, was signed in 2002. It provides for additional land, funding, employment, and other benefits for both Nations. This agreement outlined ! a package of economic, cultural, sport and capacity-building benefits, and legacies for the Nations, including assistance for the SLCC.

The Centre has been architecturally designed to pay tribute to the Coast Salish longhouses that once dotted the shorelines of Squamish traditional territory, and to the shape of the Istken, which was the underground dwelling favored by the Lil’wat people. In keeping with the First Nations’ traditional values of honoring Mother Earth. The Cultural Centre has been built to respect the landscape and act as a doorway to the forest. It is a “green” development, symbolizing the importance of responsible land stewardship, a value held by both Nations, by the Resort Municipality of Whistler, and an increasingly important value in the world.

Once inside, massive spindle whorls, suspended canoes, intricate wool and cedar weavings and other cultural displays – with a spectacular backdrop of mountains seen through unobstructed glass – provide a truly dramatic setting. The building features a Great Hall, Class A museum space, 80-seat theatre, gift gallery, café, and meeting space. Four Seasons Resort Whistler, the exclusive catering partner and Canada’s only five-diamond hotel, has created First Nations inspired menus for the café and for meetings and events held at the Centre.

Featured Programs

A key objective of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is to provide training and skills development opportunities for youth and community members through cultural apprenticeship programs. The programs will utilize the expertise of the accomplished artisans within the two Nations, ensuring that these skills are passed on to the younger generation. Visitors will be able to see artisans working in the Long House and view the larger completed work on exhibition in the Great Hall. Other artisan pieces will be available for sale in the gift shop.

Heritage Canoe Carving Apprenticeship The great canoe culture of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations will be the main theme! of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre’s majestic Great Hall. The He ritage Canoe Carving Project has created a number of canoes in styles that have not been created in the community for several generations. Those selected for the canoe carving apprenticeship program are youth who are role models of a healthy lifestyle. The program incorporates a strong cultural component to ensure that the participants are able to build upon their existing cultural knowledge.

Salish Weaving

The Squamish First Nations have been known for their basket and wool weaving for thousands of years. Northwest indigenous people were called the Weavers of the Pacific Northwest. The Salish Weaving Program has identified the accomplished weavers of the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation, reviewed historical blankets and other weavings, and trained a new generation of weavers. The weavers are creating contemporary designs and using traditional ones based on the blankets worn by Chief Joe Capilano and other Chiefs on the occasion of their famous 1906! trip to London to meet the King of England. The weavings will be proudly displayed in the Great Hall.

Cedar Weaving

The Lil’wat First Nations have been known for their basket weavings for thousands of years. Cedar bark was utilized for many things, ranging from wide brim hats to baby diapers. Traditional clothing was woven from inner bark of xpay (red cedar). Recently, however, this fine art has been in decline and in danger of being lost altogether. The Cedar Weaving Program is providing a venue for venerable weavers to pass on their considerable knowledge to a new generation. They are weaving large mats to hang in the Great Hall, and will weave baskets for sale in the gift shop. The Squamish are also recognized cedar weavers.
Vera Edmonds teaching basketry

Aboriginal Youth Ambassador Program

The Aboriginal Youth Ambassador Program, created by the Squamish Nation, has been created to develop the skills and capacity of the talented youth of the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation. The program teaches hands-on aspects of Squamish and Lil’wat cultures including canoeing, drum making, paddle making, cedar bark weaving, and carving. The youth will be the cultural guides at the Centre.

The Cultural Journey Begins in Vancouver

Along the highway to Whistler, beginning at Horseshoe Bay, there will be distinctive paddle shaped signs ! marking to indicate stops of cultural and historic significance. There will also be large twelve panel sign shelters at several major pullouts, each depicting supernatural occurrences, culture, language, and place names of First Nations significance. These scenic stops will emphasize the link between landscape and legend, and help visitors understand and appreciate the vibrant cultures and history that existed in this territory long before Europeans came to these shores.

Featured Artists

Jody Broomfield, Squamish artist

Jody is testimony to the inherent artistry found in his Squamish culture. Although he has only been carving full time since 1999, he has always con! sidered himself an artist. From childhood he observed his uncles, Jim Paull & David Nahanee, as they carved. He constantly asked questions about culture, history, and carving techniques, and his uncles would patiently coach him through the techniques and draw the classic form lines.

Jody apprenticed with Klatle-Bhi (pronounced “Cloth Bay”), a well known Kwakwaka’wakw/Coast Salish artist in a studio within the Capilano community, North Vancouver. Jody would sit knee to knee to watch and listen while Klatle-Bhi carved – until he progressed enough that Klatle-Bhi would carve half and Jody would carve the other half, thoroughly learning the northern Kwakwaka’wakw style of carving.

Jody graduated from assisting in several projects such as totems, wall panels, doors, and large masks with several artists to becoming a prominent solo artist. For the past two years he has dedicated himself to learning the unique Squamish way of carving.

In addition to carving one of the cedar entry doors and one of the giant spindle whorls that will greet visitors as they enter the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler, Jody has also designed the offi! cial logo for the Four Host First Nations for the Vancouver 2010 Olymp ic and Paralympic Winter Games, as well as a 2008 gold coin for the Royal Canadian Mint. Entitled “Four Seasons Moon Mask,” this 14-karat gold coin was inspired by a hand-carved red-cedar mask originally created by Jody.

Melvin Williams, Lil’wat artist

Melvin Williams’ grandmother, Adlina Sylvia Williams, was an accomplished weaver who specialized in cedar root baskets, which she sold to support her family. At her daughter’s urging, Adlina began to teach her weaving arts to her grandchildren. She first taught Melvin’s sister, Gabrielle, to weave wool belts for berry baskets and for carrying babies. Gabrielle taught Melvin everything their grandmother taught her. Once his grandmother knew that he was interested, she began to teach him directly, showing him how to weave a little boat from ce! dar roots.

From that beginning, Melvin has become an accomplished wool and cedar weaver, much of his skills self-taught. He wanted to learn something that didn’t cost money, so he learned how to gather, prepare, and weave both wool and cedar. Once he taught himself how to make cedar hats, he verified his techniques by visiting the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology (MOA). He continues to make belts, hats, and capes, and will design a 6’ x 6’ cedar mat for the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.

Melvin honors the skills of his ancestors by carrying on the weaving tradition, weaving the functional tools and clothing items that have been made by those who have gone before him. In addition to teaching his cousins and nephews, he is also teaching a course on cedar hat weaving.

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