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Aboriginal Cultural Experience in Vancouver

by

Lynn Rosen and Steve Giordano

Vancouver, B.C.
As we pulled through the waters of Indian Arm with beautifully carved and painted native paddles in a painted Aboriginal canoe, our young native guide up front sang traditional tribal songs taught to her by her father. Her 12 passengers stroked in rhythm to her cadences, understanding the emotion of her message if not her native language.

Our skipper, positioned in the back, steered and directed our paddling. He also shared tribal songs taught to him by his elders and told historical stories of the coastal area where we were working up a collective sweat. We were traveling the same waters as their ancestors with a privileged perspective from their combined historical knowledge. With Takaya Tours, we were experiencing just one part of a cultural tourist's dream

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Native Boatsinger matches the rhythm of the paddling.

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That evening, back in Vancouver, we walked down a narrow flight of stairs into an authentic re- creation of a long house where an authentic First Nations dinner was being prepared. Haida chef Felix Parnell, who was taught to cook native dishes in just four days by Liliget's elegant and gracious owner, Dolly Watts, grilled, steamed and baked our feast. Liliget, which means a place to feast, lived up to its well-known name. Parnell has performed in the Liliget Feast House kitchen for several years and won some international awards for his cooking.

 

Interior of Liliget Feast House in Vancouver, BC, built to feel like a longhouse inside.

Award wining cuisine graces the table.

Photos by Steve Giordano

Feast we did on award-winning traditional First Nations cuisine. After many baskets of bannock and salmon spread, our feast platter arrived. It featured grilled duck, venison, mussels, oysters, salmon and sausage with steamed vegetables, sweet potatoes and red cabbage with berries all over Dollly's special rice mix. Poached cod with more vegetables and rice appeared next. The dessert was a huge cloud of berries with cream. It was too early in the season for oolicans, an oily fish considered a delicacy. But if you're there in the late spring/summer, it's not to be missed. It's another piece of the cultural tourist's dream.

This dream was dreamt by Lise Miller-McGee, Director of Public Relations at the Listel Vancouver Hotel. "Since they were visiting the Pacific Northwest, our guests were extremely and constantly curious about an Aboriginal experience," said Miller-McGee.

"From potlatches to longhouses, talking sticks to totem poles, nothing is more compelling for a visitor to British Columbia than First Nation cultures," she said. "We decided to partner with local tribal companies, artists and providers to offer what we call the 'Coastal Cool' package at the hotel."

The Listel, in partnership with the University of British Columbia's prestigious Museum of Anthropology, has transformed its top floor into a tribute to original native B.C. art and artifacts. Native-carved cedar headboards and armoires, window dressings and bed coverings, hand- forged ironworks and Northwest Coast art throughout, form a backdrop for native ceramics, paintings and drawings in each guest room.

"We are excited to partner with such an innovative and arts-oriented hotel to showcase the works of some of the best Northwest Coast artists," said Deborah Tibbel, Museum of Anthropology Museum Shop Manager.

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"The Raven and the First Men" by Bill Reid (Haida), 1980. Collection of the University of British Columbia Museum of Anthropology, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Bill McLennan

The unique Listel "Coastal Cool" package includes:

Two nights in a Museum Floor room featuring First Nations art curated by the University of British Columbia's Museum of Anthropology A two-hour Takaya Tours Northwest Canoe Adventure on Indian Arm Inlet. Takaya Tours is owned and operated by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation of North Vancouver, B.C. Part of the Coast Salish community, they have lived for thousands of years on the land and waters of the Vancouver area and are known as the "People of the Inlet." Admission for two to the Museum of Anthropology where a soaring glass wall great room, designed by Arthur Erickson, shows off a collection of totem poles. Full-scale Haida houses, feast dishes, canoes, masks, jewelry and a local carver at work showcase one of Canada's most extensive Northwest Coastal collections. A $75 gift certificate for dinner at Liliget Feast House, Vancouver's only award-winning Pacific Northwest First Nations restaurant, also designed by Arthur Erickson. The menu features oolichan, fiddleheads, smoked salmon, kelp and Wapiti elk tenderloin. A bottle of 2001 Pinot Noir from Nk'Mip Cellars, North America's first Aboriginal owned and operated winery by the Osoyoos Indian Band. Chocolates designed by First Nations artist, Robert Davidson and made by his company, Chocolate Arts. A copy of the Museum of Anthropology's slick and glossy art book, "Objects & Expressions."

 

If you want an authentic Aboriginal experience without the mysteries of seeking out connections and figuring who to call and where to go, just link up with the Listel Vancouver Hotel package, "Coastal Cool." It's available through September 30, 2004, priced at $750 CDN (about $540 U.S.) per stay (two nights) per room. For information visit the hotel's site at www.listel- vancouver.com or by e-mail at moreinfor@listel-vancouver.com. The hotel's toll-free reservation line is 800.663.5491.

 

 

 


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