Touring Aboriginal Culture in Whistler and Lillooet

Posted on December 19, 2013

AtBC’s recent two-day familiarization tour to Whistler and Lillooet was another wonderful trip to showcase our province’s fascinating and rich Aboriginal culture to 10 participants from various Canadian tour operators. The beginning of the tour highlighted the history and traditions of the Squamish and Lil’wat people during a guided tour and a scrumptious barbecue dinner at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Our tour was welcomed by our guide “Swo-wo” with an interactive welcome song that had us all soaring like eagles through the entrance of the centre. What a wonderful way to introduce a culture to travellers! Our group thoroughly enjoyed the personal anecdotes and stories told by our guide, who also taught us how to weave a keepsake cedar bracelet. He was given the name Swo-wo – which means cougar – as he was born in November when cougars usually come down from the mountains. Following our tour, the barbecue dinner was set at the newly built, impressive patio right behind the centre and overlooking the longhouse and pithouse, as well as Blackcomb Mountain. The dinner highlighted several traditional dishes and a delicious fruit pie.

The next day, we made our way up the Duffey Lake Road to Lillooet where we were met by our head guide Rebecca and her assistant Tara of Xwisten Experience Tours. Xwisten Experience Tours is an amazing excursion run by the Bridge River Indian Band, just 6 km north of Lillooet. Rebecca’s beautiful voice and drumming welcomed us to the territory of the St’át’imc people. Her personal and welcoming nature soon had us lured into the world of the locals’ past and present fishing grounds. We were shown techniques for preparing salmon for wind-drying, which preserves the salmon for longer periods of time. Lunch was served under a covered area alongside the river and included locally caught salmon, plus salad and bannock! Of course, the recipe for the bannock was kept secret. Dessert included a traditional dish made of whipped soap berries (sxúsum). After lunch we toured the location of the pithouses and winter homes of the St’át’imc people. During the entire time, our guide Rebecca enthusiastically shared her knowledge and stories of her family – past and present.

After an inspiring experience we toured back to Vancouver – all enriched by newly earned knowledge from a culture that is as alive today as it was thousands of years ago.