Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre Inaugural Spirit Within Festival
The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) held the inaugural Spirit Within Festival on Saturday September 29 throughout the village of Whistler. As a new festival many attendees were unsure what to expect but with the extensive list of First Nation’s artists ranging from master carvers, Chiefs and youth artists it was bound to result in an eclectic and vibrant festival that would truly play off the festival name – The Spirit Within.
The team creating the premise of the festival, realized that in order to truly show the Spirit of First Nation’s culture they wanted to have all types of First Nations art – both visual and musical. “We have artists within the Nations, such as Xwalacktun being honoured with the Order of B.C and we have youth such as Shane Baker, who can turn a beat-up canoe into a graffiti masterpiece. Our vision was to bring those artists together to really showcase how diverse and engaging First Nation’s art has become” said the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre’s Executive Director Casey Vanden Heuvel.
Shane Baker from Squamish Nation worked on his piece in the centre of the Whistler Village Square. The canoe was spray painted by Baker in a palette of colours and designs that merged the traditional designs of his ancestors with the influences of his modern culture.
While Shane worked on his canoe; over at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, a ceremony originating from the traditional practices of both the Squamish and Lil’wat people took place. A welcome figure designed and carved by Aaron Nelson-Moody and Delmar Williams, with the assistance of Todd Edmonds, was blessed by Eugene Harry in an ancient traditional ceremony. This Welcome Figure will be positioned in the Whistler Village by Village Common and though it is a traditional Salish Welcome Figure of a man holding his hands open, greeting guests to the territory, Nelson-Moody has incorporated worked-copper hat and salmon design elements onto the figure. The copper hat was raised, which is to say that it started as a 48″ disc of metal, and was hammered in such a way as to thicken the edges and draw it up into the Salish hat form. Nelson-Moody choose to incorporate the copper elements because “Not many people realize that the Squamish have been using copper for several thousand years, and see it as a rich material with interesting and diverse properties.”
The evening event continued to embark on the Spirit Within when four of the top Salish dance groups within B.C performed in the Great Hall. Masked dancers, hoop dancers and the pounding of drums told the legends that have shaped values and and beliefs of the B.C First Nations for hundreds of years. Margaret Grenier from the Dancers of Damelahamid greeted the audience with these welcoming words; “It is only when you experience the dance of the West Coast that you see all aspects of Aboriginal art forms come together and come alive. It is truly a celebration of the Spirit Within.”
To close the event the talking stick was passed to the youth who performed in the Urban Lounge. Matt Gong started the show with his acoustic guitar performance followed by Kristi Sinclair who graced the audience with her beautiful voice and guitar that fused ambient rock and folk with her traditional background. Fashion designer Sho Sho Esquiro amazed the audience with her extensive collection of First Nation influenced garments and Leeland Askew closed the show with his hip-hop performance that inspired the youth to live meaningful lives and reminded all within the audience that Spirits thrive in a community of support.
Overall the Spirit Within Festival was a strong success and one that has set the ground work for the possibilities of future First Nation’s festivals in Whistler.