More than 250 people attended the opening of the Lil’wat7ul Cultural Centre on Jun. 8. The centre, located at the Xit’olacw School on the Mt. Currie New Site, houses artifacts, Ucwalmicwts language resources and examples of traditional arts and crafts, including a canoe that was built last year.
The chosen ribbon cutters evidenced the importance of language retention at the cultural centre. Alongside Chief Leonard Andrew was 9-year-old Sutikam. She is one of a dozen or so Lil’wat children who have completed the school’s four-year Ucwalmicwts immersion program.
The 1,200 sq. ft. centre is also home to historic photos and records of the Lil’wat people. Some stories are currently being recorded for CD and oral history projects that are underway.
Team leader Maureen Leo says that the new cultural centre came about from a recommendation out of the chief and council’s strategic plan which included the recognition of traditional and culture. Community support for the centre and has aided in developing its collection.
"Once we opened, people started offering artifacts that they had in their homes and they were brought in for other people to enjoy," says Leo.
However, the cultural centre will be a living entity, in part because of its location.
"Lois Joseph is our culture and arts coordinator (for) programs that are integrated into our school here, which includes making of traditional items such as regalia… and drum making and moccasin making."
The students’ response to the centre mirrors the response of their parents: pride.
"When people learn the value of their culture, their language and the peoples here, their confidence is built and the value is reintroduced into the people," says Leo.
The programs taught at the centre will be taught in customary, traditional ways, or "nt’akmen", from the hunting and gathering of food to the collection of medicinal herbs. Nt’akmen is a Ucwalmicwts word that means "our way" and implies the Lil’wat tradition of responsible stewardship of the land.
Some programs will focus on the development of contemporary skills, such as hunting with rifles and food preservation techniques such as canning salmon. There will also be public speaking and marketing skills workshops for crafts people.
As well, centre staff are planning introductory workshops to spiritual practices and cultural ceremonies.
The centre is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Everyone is welcome. A drop-in introduction to herbal healing is held on Tuesday nights at 5:30 p.m.
Singing, drumming and bone game sessions are also open to non-First Nations people.
The only workshops that may closed to First Nations’ are those pertaining to spiritual practices. People using the facility for research purposes may do so, but all materials must be used onsite. The centre can be contacted through the school at 604-894-6131.