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Vancouver Explores Its First Nations Roots

2016-05-25 | Source: | By: ELAINE GLUSAC, New York Times

Wearing a woven cedar headband that distinguished her from the other boots-and-backpack-clad hikers, Candace Campo guided a walk in Stanley Park in Vancouver last fall, pointing out path-side huckleberries and blackberries. She stripped a soft piece of bark from a fraying cedar trunk to demonstrate how it can be used as fiber for clothing, and detailed how to extract vitamin C from western hemlock needles by steeping them in boiling water.

“Stanley Park is the park of the people,” she said, intimating far more than the inhabitants of the glass high-rises that overlook the nearly 1,000-acre peninsular park on Vancouver’s waterfront. “Prior to interactions with Europe, Stanley Park was central to the Coast Salish people.”

Their ancestors have lately come to reclaim the region, at least in the interpretive sense. Beyond the totem poles long displayed in the park, visitors to Vancouver can now gain a fuller appreciation for the area’s native people, known as First Nations, by staying in the city’s only First Nations’ lodge, touring an expanded collection of native art, dining on First Nations cuisine and exploring the urban rain forest with a native guide.

Keen to protect their traditions, many indigenous tribes have long maintained a cautious distance from tourism. But tribal bands in British Columbia have found respectful, and increasingly popular, ways to convey their culture to the curious. In 2015, according to the Aboriginal Tourism Association of British Columbia, business grew 10 percent over the year before, to more than $50 million in sales. And the newly elected Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, has made it his business to increase ties to First Nations peoples, appointing two indigenous ministers to his cabinet.

“Even people in Canada don’t know First Nations cultures,” said Keith Henry, former chief executive of the association. “It’s doing a lot for reconciliation. People want to hear authentic stories of the history of the land and of the people.”

Moving into the province’s biggest city, Vancouver, First Nations interests have produced the city’s first native hotel, Skwachays Lodge ( Proceeds from the intimate 18-room boutique hotel, opened in the fall of 2014, support 24 artists in residence in the building. Six native artists paired up with six local interior designers to create the individually decorated rooms that might include the legend of the raven covering one wall, or evoke a community gathering place known as a long house through abstract aboriginal motifs of animals.

A First Nations gallery does double duty as the hotel reception, and the hotel maintains a tentlike sweat lodge on the roof terrace. It adjoins a Smudge Room where guests can undergo a purification ritual under the guidance of a medicine man.

“This was a healing lodge originally for First Nations people coming to the city for medical treatment, and we wanted to make the rituals available to our guests, who are interested in sustainable tourism and native culture,” said Maggie Edwards, general manager of the hotel.

Across False Creek from the Downtown Eastside neighborhood, where the hotel is located, is Salmon ’n Bannock (, which says it is Vancouver’s sole First Nations restaurant. Its owner, Inez Cook, opened the 30-seat cafe in 2010 with just five menu items as a way of exploring her own First Nations background as a Nuxalk native.

“I wanted the word bannock in the title so First Nations people would understand,” said Ms. Cook, referring to the often heavy unleavened bread that is a staple of indigenous diets across Canada, “and I wanted salmon for people who might not know bannock.”

In keeping with the restaurant’s mission to prepare native foods such as wild fish and game in modern ways, its airy bannock is served steaming with cedar jelly, osso bucco is prepared with elk, and smoked halibut comes with blueberry wild rice.

The Capilano Tea House & Botanical Soda Company ( was opened on Feb. 1 by the mother-daughter team Michelle and Paisley Nahanee of the Squamish Nation, offering local berries and nettles fused with globally sourced teas, and bannock and jam.

Vancouver has long been a showcase for First Nations art, led by the immersive University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology. Last fall, the Vancouver Art Gallery ( acquired much of the acclaimed First Nations art of the late San Francisco collector George Gund III, which includes animated masks of an eagle, a shark and other spirits by the master carver Robert Davidson.

Back in Stanley Park, Candace Campo concluded her 90-minute Talking Trees tour ( by specifying medicinal uses for native plants, noting a renewed interest on the part of First Nations people, as well as visitors, in indigenous practices from the arts to cooking.

“The rain forest is the reason our people are returning to the plants,” she said. “They are a free pharmacy.”

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 Partnering with the Vancouver Aquarium

Partnering with the Vancouver Aquarium


We are very proud to be in a partnership with the Vancouver Aquarium and share in the opportunity to provide educational, ecological and cultural experiences to our visitors. The Vancouver Aquarium is open 365 days a year.

With over 50,000 animals, new features and shows every season, there is always a reason to visit the Vancouver Aquarium. At the Aquarium shows and programs are developed around the amazing animals, including the dolphins and majestic belugas. Equally notable, the thousands of species of the Pacific Coast fish, frogs and insects will keep you intrigued, learning and entertained. Join us and learn more about the animals, their habitats, and share your knowledge as an ambassador of the environment.

Walk and learn an insight and cultural perspective of Vancouver’s iconic park and then take the afternoon to visit the Vancouver Aquarium!
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 A Night At the Longhouse - Coast Salish Performance, Drumming, Singing and Dancing

A Night At the Longhouse - Coast Salish Performance, Drumming, Singing and Dancing


Our annual A Night At the Longhouse Event has been a smashing success! Back by popular demand, this is a community cultural celebration and performance with an evening of traditional Coast Salish-shíshálh drumming, singing and dancing and traditional storytelling. Also unique was our potluck dinner that included salmon and elk (donated by the shíshálh Nation). We invited our Sunshine Coast friends and visitors to join us and we've had a wonderful time. All proceeds go to Community Soccer – the Sechelt Renegades and Our SD 46 Cultural Dance Group. Please click the Photos tab above to view some photos from the event. Photo credit: Saara Olkkonen,

Click here to read or download complete content in PDF format.

Time: 5:00 pm Doors Open - Come early and warm up the drum and sing with us.

Location: 5488 Monkey Tree Lane, Sechelt BC. Shishalh Nation Traditional Longhouse

For further information, please contact:

You can also RSVP at or call 1-800-605-4643

Event Organizer: Candace Campo - Shishalh Nation Cultural Ambassador, Talaysay Tours & Aboriginal & Eco Tours

Email: Mobile: 604-341-7555

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 Back to the West Cost basics! Have your ever been to Ahousat?

Back to the West Cost basics! Have your ever been to Ahousat?

2016-03-15 | By: Candace Campo

Kayaking is a Team Sport. Some people like to go lone wolf, which is doable, but when on a multi-day trip you can be carrying heavy gear, food and safety equipment and your double fibreglass and or kevlar kayak can weight up to 200 lbs when loaded. Four to even 6 people carrying a loaded kayak is recommended by Talaysay Tours. When you do not have a big team to carry the kayaks, unload your gear at the shoreline and carry the kayaks empty or partially loaded. Your back will love you for the team effort in transporting the kayaks to and from the beach just by preventing a back tweak or serious injury. When you are adventuring in the wilderness your paddle mates are your tribe and you literally have to have each others backs in all aspects. Pun is intended.

In this gorgeous photo of the sandy beach and marine blue ocean, the kayakers are excited to launch their kayaks in the early morning sun as they cross the channel to go visit the Ahousat First Nations people, buy fresh bread, get fresh water and visit with the friendliest locals north of the 49th parallel. Northwest Coast hospitality at it's finest. We will see you this summer our friends of Ahousat.

Photo taken by Agaath Kooi, Switzerland, in the Clayoquot Sound, Vargas Island, 2015.
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