The 10-day Weetama festival finished up with the Aboriginal Tourism British Columbia Awards on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 16.
This year, awards were presented in eight different categories for Aboriginal business achievements in B.C.s growing tourism industry.
The categories and winners were: Cultural Authenticity, U'mista Cultural Society; Excellence in Customer Service, Qulus Aboriginal Tours Inc.; Young Adult Achievement, Gisele Martin, Owner/Operator, TLA-OOK Cultural Adventures; Strength in Marketing, Takaya Tours; Tourism Conservation, Tom Sewid, Owner/Operator, Village Island Tours; Power of Education, Nk'Mip Desert and Heritage Centre; Ambassador Awards, Lillian Hunt, U'Mista Cultural Society and Beverley O'Neil, O'Neil Marketing & Numa Communications Ltd.; and Inspirational Leadership, Linnea Battle, XÁ:YTEM Longhouse Interpretive Centre.
Award presenters included Chief Ian Campbell of the Squamish Nation, Grand Chief Ed John of the First Nations Summit, the Honourable Stan Hagan, Minister of Sustainable Resource Management, and the Honourable Rick Thorpe, Minister of Competition, Science and Enterprise.
The awards were co-hosted by Aboriginal Tourism British Columbia and Tourism Whistler in association with Aboriginal Business Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada.
The Aboriginal Tourism Association was founded in 1996 to share information, network, and explore new means of strengthening the Aboriginal tourism industry in B.C and now has 120 members.
It is estimated that Aboriginal tourism in Canada generated more than $300 million in 2001.
This year Weetama provided 190,000 visitors to Whistler with an invaluable cross-cultural experience.
Now it its third year, Weetama featured traditional art, music and dance of the Aboriginal communities in the Whistler area.
Weetama also held a silent auction during the festival and raised more than $2,000 for youth programs in the regions Aboriginal communities.