Share This Story
Submit this story

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) located in Whistler, BC has added another honor to their collection of recent awards with an important prize from the Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C.

The SLCC was honored November 6 with the Aboriginal Cultural Authenticity Award, along with the Xatsull Heritage Village. The award was presented on Tuesday by Keith Henry, CEO of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC (ATBC), at a gala dinner during the 2012 BC Tourism & Hospitality Conference in Vancouver. Receiving the award on behalf of the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre were Executive Director, Casey Vanden Heuvel, and Lil’wat Nation’s Justine Wallace the centre’s Sales and Events Coordinator.

“Authenticity is the core of our tourism product; our primary effort every day at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre is to deliver an authentic, engaging experience to our guests,” said Vanden Heuvel. “We represent thousands of years of rich local First Nations culture and we are very pleased to be recognized by the B.C. tourism industry for our commitment to sharing that rich culture with respect through the efforts of our local First Nations ambassadors.”

The Cultural Authenticity Award recognizes an Aboriginal tourism business that has demonstrated a commitment to ensuring cultural authenticity in business activities. Award nominees were to illustrate a demonstrated commitment to the sharing of authentic, realistic cultural activities through dance, songs, stories or cultural events, a commitment to preserving and protecting the living culture and a commitment to the community.

“This award acknowledges that we are sharing our cultural knowledge just as our elders before us passed on their knowledge,” said Wallace, a graduate of the SLCC’s Aboriginal Youth Ambassador Program. “By following the teaching of our elders and continuing to protect, revitalize and share all of our aboriginal cultures we can work towards a better future for everyone.”

Ms. Wallace is a clear example of the SLCC’s ability to realize their cultural goals in that she represents her culture directly within the work she does with facility guests. Those who visit the cultural centre enter a building filled with a living culture of music and art and they leave with a new found cultural awareness and appreciation as a result of a direct connection to the local First Nations people who deliver the experience every day. The SLCC offers Aboriginal Youth Ambassador-led interpretive tours, performances, traditional crafts, and customized workshops along with providing free and open workspace for Aboriginal artists living in the Sea to Sky Corridor. The building houses the Great Hall, Istken Hall and a museum space housing rare artifacts. There is also a gift gallery, an 80-seat theater and  the indigenous inspired Thunderbird Café offers First Nations cuisine.

Through the SLCC’s Aboriginal Youth Ambassadors Program, the centre provides First Nations youth with training and education opportunities within the tourism industry while also providing them the opportunity to connect with elders, artisans and other cultural educators to further develop their cultural knowledge. Many participants of the program have gone on to complete post-secondary education programs while others continue to work at the SLCC and some have launched their own cultural tourism businesses – they are all positive role models, ensuring cultural practices continue into the next generation.

The SLCC was recognized earlier this year by ATBC as the recipient of the Cultural Centers and Attractions Award as the cultural centre of the year and was also the recipient of the National Cultural Tourism Award in 2010, presented by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada National Awards for Tourism Excellence.

The SLCC continues to help preserve and share the history of the Squamish and Lil’wat First Nations culture while providing meaningful employment and training opportunities for members of the First Nations’ communities.  The SLCC continues to build upon its mission to inspire and educate guests about the depth and beauty of the distinct Skwxwu7mesh (Squamish) and Lil’wat7ul (Lil’wat) cultures.

“AtBC is so proud of the work of Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center in Whistler as one of the premier authentic Aboriginal tourism destinations in British Columbia,” said Keith Henry, CEO of the Aboriginal Tourism Association of BC. “The Cultural Authenticity Award symbolizes their commitment to visitor experience excellence, one that is authentic and supportive of telling the story of the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations properly. This is what visitors from