2019-01-08 | Source: Travel Pulse | By: Chelsea Davis
PHOTO: Candace Campo of Talaysay Tours. (Photo courtesy of Chelsea Davis)
Few destinations offer as much of an immersive experience into the rich heritage of First Nations culture as does Vancouver, Canada. While Vancouver is well-known for its friendly citizens, diversity, extensive art scene, a variety of restaurants and incredible coastal scenery, which includes lush rainforest and mountainous terrain, it’s also the traditional homeland to the Musqueam, Squamish, Tsleil Waututh and Coastal Salish peoples.
First Nations culture is interwoven throughout everyday life in Vancouver. From art installations, dual signage and dedicated museums to indigenous cuisine and First Nation-led excursions, this is a city overflowing with special, one-of-a-kind opportunities to learn about the indigenous peoples of the Sunshine Coast.
"Indigenous people, the first hosts of this great city, share culture, history and friendship via walking tours, food, song and dance," explains Candace Campo, member of the Sechelt Nation and owner-operator of Talaysay Tours, a First Nations-owned company that offers authentic Aboriginal cultural and eco-tourism experiences in and around Vancouver.
“Vancouver, the city, is a gathering place for people throughout the world from various cultures. There are 7 distinct Coast Salish indigenous tribes who are the first hosts of this region and practice century-old cultural customs within the guest-host relationship.”
“This long-standing tradition is referred to as taking care of each other's heart. When visitors come to our home, as a people, whether we are Chiefs, guides or community members, we give and share our very best.”
Visitors looking for both luxe accommodations and an authentic experience can book a Talking Trees Package with the Fairmont Waterfront, a certified 5 Green Key and soon-to-be Zero Waste property, which includes a Talking Trees Tour from Talaysay Tours.
During this special tour, you’re accompanied by a local First Nations guide who leads you on a cultural, historic and scientific exploration of the trees and plants of Stanley Park. It’s fascinating to hear first-hand how they—to this day—continue to gather and harvest the very same plants for food and medicine that they have for centuries.
Get ready to be blown away by First Nations’ in-depth knowledge of the nature that surrounds you and delighted by the stories that each tree and plant holds in their culture. And don’t miss out on the towering totem poles scattered throughout the lush park.
In addition to this tour, the Fairmont package features a special indigenous-inspired dinner in ARC, the property’s upscale waterfront restaurant helmed by Executive Chef Anthony Marzo. This special dinner incorporates the foraged local bounty that was learned about on the tour.
Our menu included dishes such as oyster and herring roe with kelp, hemlock and eucalyptus emulsion and elk tartare with elderberries, blackberries, hazelnuts and a bone marrow sabayon.
Before you check out, be sure to stop by the Fairmont’s newest addition to their impressive organic rooftop culinary garden—the West Coast Garden—which was designed in partnership with Campo and Hives for Humanity.
This bountiful garden is overflowing with plants and flowers that provide food for bees and other pollinators. The garden includes the indigenous plants mock orange, salal, snowberry, salmonberry, deer fern, wild strawberry and Solomon’s plume. Much of what grows on the roof finds its way into the cuisine at ARC.
If you’re craving more First Nations flavor, visitors can dine at Salmon n Bannock, Vancouver’s only First Nations restaurant, which specializes in wild fish, game meat, and you guessed it, bannock. From wild sockeye salmon and wild boar to more rarely tasted meats such as sea lion and oolochan fish, Salmon and Bannock uses traditional ingredients and prepares and presents them in a modern way.
For a more casual take on First Nations food, track down the Mr. Bannock Food Truck, Vancouver’s first indigenous food truck. It offers cuisine using ingredients from the Squamish Nation such as juniper berries, smoked wild salmon and meats and prepares it using traditional methods such as clay and stone baking. You can’t go wrong with one of Mr. Bannock’s award-winning Indian tacos topped with venison chili, cheese, salsa and sour cream.
Once you’re full, take a break and explore one of the many museums and art galleries that serve as important vehicles conveying the history, culture, stories and messages of the First Nation to visitors and locals alike.
Explore Vancouver Museum’s Haida Now exhibit which boasts over 450 works of art, some dating back to 1890. Learn about the importance of First Nation stories, how things like jewelry is used to pass on knowledge and ways Haida artists engage with the world through their craft.
Another fascinating body of work to check out? Body Language: Reawakening Cultural Tattooing of the Northwest at the Bill Reid Gallery. This is the first exhibition that fully dives into the world of Indigenous tattooing, piercing and personal adornment. Learn about the history of these traditional practices and find out how they’re used to tell personal stories, create identity and symbolize protection, healing and more, in the present day.