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The Spirit Within Festival grows in its second year

Arts and culture events will take place at the SLCC and around Whistler from Sept. 26 – 29



When organizers of the Spirit Within Festival say they will have something for everyone during the event's four days, they mean it.

The second installation of the festival — expanded from one day last year — will include arts, culture, food and even a guest appearance by some animals from Sept. 26 to 29.

"The whole festival itself embodies that we're still a living culture and we still use the practice and teachings from the past and bring them forward to the modern world," says Allison Burns, one of the event's organizers at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre (SLCC). "We love the idea of showcasing traditional and more modern artforms for the festival."

Last year, the centre launched the festival, filled with food, singing and dancing, as a way to celebrate and show the culture of the First Nations to the rest of the Sea to Sky corridor. It was such a success organizers decided to make it even bigger this year.

The festivities are broken into four themes. Thursday will kick off with "The Work of the Raven," featuring educational and cultural workshops, along with a visit from the Vancouver Aquarium Aquazone. Friday, meanwhile, is titled "The Young Raven — Tricksters, Innovators and Creators" with a focus on youth (though Burns emphasizes each day will have activities for all ages) including artists and performers at Olympic Plaza and a barbecue and live music at the SLCC starting at 6 p.m. Musicians include local favourites Kalan Wi, Kristi Lane Sinclair and Cris Derksen.

Saturday's "The Wise Raven" themed-events feature an art market at the SLCC, along with an art appraiser on site.

"There will be beaders, carvers, stone carvers and wool weavers showcasing their pieces," Burns says. "It will be like a farmers' market so people can showcase their work and people can purchase things as they like. I'll be here that day, so I'll get to buy everything too!"

Later on, there will also be traditional dance performances with the first show at 6 p.m. and the second at 8 p.m.

Sunday's events will continue with free shows and art events at Olympic Plaza and a special afternoon tea at the SLCC, featuring traditional tea, bannock and storytelling.

"We're going to bring in one of our workers who's knowledgeable about different plants and medicines in the area," Burns says. "There will be samples of teas for medicinal purposes."

The Iswalh Dancers and Raven Spirit Dance will also perform. The events will wrap up with the Celebrate Wildlife event, which includes a visit from some real birds of prey. "We're going to be having some of the people who do the bird show from the Vancouver Zoo and they're going to bring up some of their birds, a falcon, eagle and an owl. I'm really excited," Burn says.

The festival was well attended last year and organizers hope to build on that crowd. "Last year was a learning year because it was our first year," Burns says. "Something we learned was stretching out the different programming over multiple days (would be) a great thing so we could broaden the number of people that can come enjoy the fun and festivities."

Many of the events are free, but some are ticketed. For tickets and event times visit