Whistler’s Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) was recognized by B.C.’s Aboriginal Tourism Association last week for its commitment to ensuring cultural authenticity in its everyday business operations.
The Aboriginal Cultural Authenticity Award was given to the SLCC’s executive director, Casey Vanden Heuvel and sales and event coordinator Justine Wallace Monday (Nov. 5) at the 2012 BC Tourism and Hospitality Conference in Vancouver.
“Something that the SLCC is really known for is being the house of two Nations (the Squamish and the Lil’wat). It’s pretty unique to have that centre in the first place, and then to receive an award saying we are authentically representing both our nations is pretty exciting news. It’s definitely a wonderful recognition,” said Wallace.
The centre houses many rare First Nations artefacts and provides interpretive tours, workshops, traditional performances, and free workspace for Aboriginal artists living in the region. Its signature festival, Spirit Within, also launched this year, attracted hundreds of attendees to its state-of-the-art facility.
The SLCC, which officially opened in 2008, was also applauded for its Aboriginal Youth Ambassador program, which gives First Nations youth the chance to train in the tourism industry while also learning about their cultural heritage by connecting them with elders, artisans and other Aboriginal educators.
“(The program’s) more than just cultural tourism, it’s more about helping our culture to revitalize,” said Wallace, herself a graduate of the program before she became the SLCC’s sales and events coordinator. “It creates a strong sense of self within a youth to help them realize you come from a very special people, and if you work here you can share that with whoever comes through the centre.”
The SLCC was recognized earlier this year by the Aboriginal Tourism Association of B.C., which named it the cultural centre of the year. The centre was also awarded with a National Cultural Tourism Award in 2010 by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.