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Whistler to celebrate First Nations’ culture

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WHAT: Weetama First Nations Festival

WHERE: Whistler

WHEN: Aug. 30-Sept. 2

Welcome to Weetama! A celebration of our region’s Aboriginal traditions and culture. The five-day festival will host entertainment, workshops and art, all designed to highlight the many First Nations communities in the Sea to Sky Corridor.

Weetama – derived from the Squamish Lil'wat word "cwitima," which means whistling marmot, for which Whistler is named – will see dozens of free events around town, beginning with opening ceremonies Thursday, Aug. 30 in Village Square. Aboriginal performers in full regalia will demonstrate traditional dances, music and songs, including hoop and powwow dances. Performers, elder storytellers and skilled craftsmen will be on village streets throughout the entire weekend. Free artisan workshops focusing on education and fun will offer lessons in beadwork, making dream catchers, cedar carving and the medicine wheel. And if you’d like to take home a cultural piece of the event, an informal marketplace in the conference centre atrium will provide the opportunity to talk with Aboriginal carvers, painters and sculptors. Daily film matinees in Rainbow Theatre will also feature traditional heritage, history and culture.

The highlight of Weetama is the Feast, an evening encompassing this time-honoured tradition. Participants will first take part in a cleansing ceremony, entering the feast house under cedar wood boughs. Feasters will also be given wooden clackers so they can keep time with the dancers as they perform the welcoming song and friendship dance. Feast house offerings include more than 30 authentic foods from First Nations bands of the Sea to Sky Corridor.

Traditional entertainment is courtesy of Alex Wells, the 2001 World Champion Hoop Dancer. A member of the Salish Interior First Nation of Mount Currie, Wells started dancing with his family at a young age and later went on to join the Red Thunder Native Dance Theatre. He currently dances solo and choreographs for large scale productions.

And as is customary in the Feast house, guests never go away without a gift. Wooden clackers, a bentwood box and wooden menu will offer memories of an unforgettable learning experience.

Traditional Feast tickets and general information on the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 festivities are available at the Whistler Activity Centre.

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