A&E » Arts

Weetama celebrates First Nations heritage, culture


By: Dana Michell

What: Weetama Festival

Where: Rebagliati Park

When: Aug. 8-17

If the only Whistler you know involves powder, pedals and pubs, then it is your spiritual duty to attend this year’s Weetama festival.

Whistler happens to sit at the junction of two distinct Aboriginal communities – the Lil’wat Nation, (Mount Currie Band) to the north, and the Squamish Nation to the south. And despite the European design and alpine vibe of the resort, Whistler is a region rich in First Nations heritage and culture.

Weetama is Whistler’s annual First Nations celebration featuring the stories, the songs, the dances and the art of our neighbouring communities. From Aug. 8 to 17, the natural riverside setting of Rebagliati Park will become an authentic Native village complete with teepees, fishing demonstrations, interactive workshops, totem pole carving, traditional cooking, exciting entertainers, mythlogical story telling and rare artisan stations.

The hidden tree-lined setting along the banks of Fitzimmons Creek, is just a stone’s throw from the heart of Whistler Village, lending itself perfectly to Weetama, said the manager of festivals at Tourism Whistler, Gwen Young.

"The natural setting of Rebagliati Park will definitely enhance the feeling of an authentic, one-of-a-kind cultural experience, but we will still see some feature events taking place throughout Whistler Village and the Upper Village."

Once again, Weetama will play host to the Aboriginal Tourism British Columbia Awards, now in their second year. These awards honour the commitment, innovation and dedication to a culturally rich Aboriginal tourism industry in B.C., and feature a reception, the awards ceremony and special guest performances on Aug. 16 at the Westin. Among the awards to be presented are: Inspirational Leadership, Strength in Marketing, Power of Education, Young Adult Achievement, Tourism Conservation and Excellence in Customer Service.

The event will be hosted by First Nations stand-up comedian, Cool Warrior.

The week of festivities kicks off with the Welcoming Ceremony on Friday, Aug. 8 in Whistler Village and Rebagliati Park with keynote speakers and performances from the Squamish Nation and the Lil’wat Nation. Weetama – which in the language of the Lil'wat Nation means the whistling marmot, which is where Whistler’s name came from – is a free event for the whole family.