Supporting Local Indigenous Communities

June 19, 2020

By Heather Paul, Executive Director, Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

As the earth’s northern hemisphere tilts as close as it gets toward the sun and we enjoy the longest day of light in the year, we unite as a nation, draw a little bit closer to our own light and truth, and recognize National Indigenous Peoples Day. Sunday, June 21st is a day of celebration for the contributions and cultures of Indigenous peoples.

Photo credit: SLCC/Logan Swayze

As Whistler businesses restart in a COVID painted normal, witnessing the news cycle swing between government updates and the spring awakening of racial justice, there can be a buzzing in the back of the mind as plexiglass is ordered, 6 feet distances are measure out, and Zoom accounts renewed: “What can I do?”. How can a local small business make a social impact on society, become part of the Truth and Reconciliation movement while navigating the economic disaster of our livelihoods? It can be as simple as an inspiring walk through history, in the heart of Whistler Village, or a land acknowledgement whenever groups gather (digitally or from 6 feet apart).

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler is a good place to start. Nestled on 5 acres of mostly forested land across the street from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, this modern interpretation of the Squamish Nation’s traditional Longhouse and Lil’wat Nation’s earthen dwelling (Istken) hosts the treasures of our Indigenous neighbours. The exhibits are a snap shot at their continuous journey to revitalize the language, culture, stories and traditions that have lived on this beautiful stretch of nature since time immemorial.

Consider buying an SLCC membership for your family or staff. Becoming a member is an investment in cultural revitalization efforts for the Nations whose shared territories Whistler resides on. Sign up for the newsletter, staying in the know on what is happening and how to engage with the local Indigenous communities.

Take some time after June 25th to visit the SLCC as the centre reopens to the public. Learn about the Indigenous Youth Ambassador program – a local career development work program that has over 600 graduates.

Here are some other things businesses and community members are doing to get involved:

  • Participating in the online or delicious activities planned for National Indigenous Peoples Day;
  • Following SLCCWhistler, and FirstNationsSnowboardTeam on social media;
  • Donating to the SLCC or the First Nations Snowboard Team;
  • Finding out what other local Indigenous businesses you can support or contract.
  • Visiting ca and squamish.net to learn about these two distinct Nations governance and economic platforms
  • Consider a land acknowledgement in your email signatures (and if you don’t already know, find out what ‘unceded’ means. That’s a good conversation at the family dinner table).
  • Ask questions. Reach out to the SLCC in person or online, they are a resource and want to hear from you.

This weekend, as National Indigenous History month collides with Canada’s new solstice celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, let’s all celebrate the cultural contributions of the Indigenous people. Let’s consider that by this time next year Whistler will be celebrating together and in person. We will bombastically gather to holler our support, having spent the last 365 days getting to know The Nations better, broadening our support and compassion for their communities and businesses, and celebrating their discoveries, feeling the sound of the drums as it moves across their land, honouring the ancestors, and being accountable to the future.

Photo credit: SLCC/Logan Swayze

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