When Deanna Lewis was a
little girl, she didn’t know what it meant to be a member of the Squamish
She didn’t speak the language
or know the history of her nation — it was as though her family was trying to
It wasn’t until the
eight-year-old Lewis started questioning her grandfather that she began to
learn what it meant to be Squamish.
As she shares a little part
of her story in the Great Hall of the soon-to-be-open Squamish-Lil’wat Cultural
Centre, Lewis’ pride of her past is etched on her face and the importance of
having a place to tell the world about her community is evident.
“This is where we’re going to
be bringing our kids to learn the culture — to share the culture and preserve
it,” she said.
Though the grand opening for
the centre is not scheduled until June 28, tours are available throughout
February offering a sneak peak of what’s to come.
And while there are
construction workers busily toiling away around every corner amid dust and
noise and no artifacts or displays in place, the $20 million centre (based on
2005 figures) is already a site to behold.
The architecture is modeled
after a modern day Squamish long house, allowing light to pour into the
facility from massive windows. Imposing wood beams provide support for the
Below the “long house” is a
modern version of a “pit house” or the circular Istken — the earthen dwelling
with a fire pit of the Lil’wat people.
The six-acre site, surrounded
by a forest on one side and majestic mountain views on the other, will also
house a traditional version of the two types of dwellings.
Rocks with pictographs will
be installed near the entrance showing things like the sun, deer feeding and
grizzly bear paws.
Lewis explains that as people
enter two cedar carved doors — one representing Squamish Nation, the other
Lil’wat Nation — they will find a huge replica of hand-carved spindle whorls
that will be spinning.
The ground will be painted to
represent a river with rocks and grass as it winds its way down the Great Hall.
Along the journey through the centre people will learn about the art, song,
dance, traditional food and regalia of the two nations.
Ambassadors like the
charismatic Lewis will be on hand to welcome people in the official languages
and answer questions.
An 80-seat theatre will play
a 12-minute reel of the two nations through the day.
In the Class A museum space,
icons of both nations will tell stories of both modern life and traditional
The most special room in the
whole centre, said Lewis, is one that won’t be available to the public. It will
be a place for the elders of both communities to go. The elders were
extensively consulted throughout the process of gathering information for the
“That’s a thank you to them,”
said Lewis simply.
Another facet to the facility
is its capacity to host banquets for up to 150 people and receptions for 300.
“We want to add extra value
to Whistler,” said Lewis.
As part of the Cultural
Olympiad for the 2010 Games, the centre will be open for scheduled tours
through the month of February during Whistler Celebration 2010.
The tours will be conducted
every Tuesday and Thursday from noon until 12:45 p.m. and from 1 to 1:45 p.m.
To sign up, contact Deanna Bell at email@example.com or call 1-604-898-1822. RSVP’s
are required and space is limited.