Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
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At the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre and beyond people agree that travel is an education. Generally, education is something the individual benefits from. In addition to that I believe that travel can be a force for good in the world.
You’ve seen me write about kindness I experienced in Portugal, and in Canada. About how I believe travel contributes to world peace by fostering understanding and respect. Today, I want to talk about a very pragmatic way travel has a positive impact. Not in terms of mindset, but in terms of measurable outcomes.
A community in need
There is so much to say about the First Nations of Canada, we won’t be able to talk about their history and issues they are facing in this setting. But let’s just focus on a little piece of the puzzle of their fascinating story today. Many of them are facing unemployment, in the Western meaning of the word.
This is also true for the Squanish and the Lil’wat nation who live on the West coast of Canada, in what we call the province of British Columbia.
Their young adults are struggling to find work, for a number of reasons. But they need jobs to live in today’s society, because they need money.
In addition, they have had to adjust to the Western way of live to the extend that they are on the brink of losing their culture, their language, their music. Their children have to learn English if they are to have a chance in life and some don’t speak their own Nation’s language anymore at all.
Tourism in the area
These nations live in an area that is very popular with travelers. In the winter, they come to ski and snowboard. In the summer, they come for all kinds of other outdoor activities. The setting is beautiful, just between the Rockies and the coastline.
Thanks to the Olympic Games they have a new road leading up the mountain from Vancouver and it is getting easier for travelers to visit the area.
The opportunity: the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre
So here is what they did. They came together and decided that they have more in common than what seperates them (they had me at this point, what other two nations do we know that start any project based on this notion lately? do you know any?)
They combined their forced to build the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler, BC. It is like a museum, just better. They have a theater there where they show a movie they made, and you get to really experience their cultures in tea ceremonies or when they sing you one of their songs, accompanied by drums. For current activities check out their website.
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre has a gift shop, a café and event space. And here, they run a program to train young people on how to run a business like this. After a few months, they graduate and get a certificate and they can put this on their resume. It makes them more employable should they decide to leave, but it also ensures they’ll have somebody to run their business, so it can continue to be a good force for their community.
Not only does it bring them employment and education, but it is also a way for them to preserve their culture. To weave their carpets, make their baskets, sing their songs and speak their language.
Connecting the community in need with the travelers
Many travelers are curious about the First Nations and their cultures and love learning about them. Planeterra is a non-profit organisation that specializes in exactly these types of opportunities. They bring travelers to the SLCC so they can learn about First Nations and at the same time enable the future indigenous generation to find employment while preserving their culture.
You can find many projects like this one on their website, some of which they even funded from the start. How do you get to experience projects like the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre? By booking a trip with G Adventures, the company that called this organization into life. I visited the SLCC on the Canadian Rockies National Geographic Journey with G Adventures, a trip I can highly recommend to anyone who is looking to learn more about nature and culture of Canada. And you will do good just by being part of it. Making the world a better place through travel.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
I originally pushlished this post in December 2019 and updated it to inlcude relevant links and images.