Leave neg­a­tive en­ergy at the lodge door

Abo­rig­i­nal ex­pe­ri­ences driv­ing B.C. tourism

Metro Canada (Toronto) - - TRAVEL - Jen­nifer Bain travel@metronews.ca

Old Hands uses an ea­gle wing to scoop up the sage smoke from his smudge pot and wave it around me, wip­ing away neg­a­tive en­ergy and trans­fer­ring it to the abalone shell pot. The tra­di­tional healer asks the higher forces to cleanse, heal and fill me with the Earth Mother’s en­ergy.

I’m happy but verg­ing on un­easy dur­ing this pri­vate smudg­ing cer­e­mony. Maybe it’s be­cause Old Hands (the 67-year-old elder’s pre­ferred name) sprin­kled to­bacco on four corners of a pur­ple rug and told me to en­ter from any di­rec­tion with­out know­ing what each rep­re­sents.

What’s unique about this smudg­ing cer­e­mony is that it’s hap­pen­ing on the sixth floor of the Skwachays Lodge, an Abo­rig­i­nal arts ho­tel in Van­cou­ver.

Old Hands is Shoshone from Cal­i­for­nia but liv­ing in Sur­rey with his GitxsanA­lu­tiiq wife. He served in the Viet­nam War and un­der­stands PTSD, which helps him be “a re­ally good healer” for both Abo­rig­i­nal and non-Abo­rig­i­nal peo­ple. “Re­li­gions are like cell­phones — ev­ery­body has a dif­fer­ent one, but we all call the same op­er­a­tor,” Old Hands quips. He also loves to quote his late grand­fa­ther, who used to say: “We live in a mag­i­cal world, but no­body looks for the magic.”

Maybe most peo­ple are wil­fully blind to the spirit Old Hands with a smudge pot and ea­gle wing at Skwachays Lodge in Van­cou­ver. The city of Van­cou­ver, with more than 52,000 First Na­tions peo­ple, is on the tra­di­tional ter­ri­to­ries of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Wau­tuth. world, but some of us are on a hunt for it. I’ve come to Bri­tish Columbia to ex­plore Canada’s bur­geon­ing abo­rig­i­nal tourism scene.

I talk about this with Paula Amos over din­ner at Salmon n’ Ban­nock af­ter ex­plor­ing the Mu­seum of An­thro­pol­ogy at UBC’s col­lec­tion of North­west Coast First Na­tions arts with totem poles aplenty and views of the Coast Moun­tains and Sal­ish Sea.

Amos is with Abo­rig­i­nal Tourism BC, which ex­pects to at­tract 2.2 mil­lion vis­i­tors and gen­er­ate $1.5 bil­lion in spend­ing on trips with an abo­rig­i­nal ex­pe­ri­ence within five years. It al­ready has more than 90 ex­pe­ri­ences and is only in its early stage of de­vel­op­ment.

She’s of Hesquiaht and Squamish Na­tion de­scent and a big fan of Salmon n’ Ban­nock — and its co-owner Inez Cook, of the Nux­alk Na­tion — and thrilled that a tiny Pa­cific Coast fish called ooli­gan (can­dle­fish) is on tonight’s menu. We or­der ev­ery­thing from the salmon sam­pler (wild salmon pre­pared three ways — can­died, ce­viche and mousse) and bi­son back ribs to ban­nock, of course.

“First Na­tions — we’re ‘in’ right now,” says Cook. “It’s awe­some to be able to show­case my her­itage with pride.”

An­other woman proudly show­cas­ing her Sechelt First Na­tions cul­ture is Can­dace Campo of Talaysay Tours who runs cul­tural and eco ex­pe­ri­ences such as the Talk­ing Trees Walk at Stanley Park.

Lewis, from Squamish Na­tion, kicked off our guided walk with singing and drum­ming. She shows how a de­cay­ing red cedar tree can be turned into a dried paint and how thick bark was used for smoke sig­nals.

We talk about berries and ducks and cat­tails and moss. We stop to drink tea from a

If you go

In Van­cou­ver, stay at Skwachays Lodge (skwachays.com), an abo­rig­i­nal art ho­tel and so­cial en­ter­prise. In Whistler, I stayed at the Fair­mont Chateau Whistler (Fair­mont.com).

In Van­cou­ver, I ate at Salmon n’ Ban­nock (salmo­nand­ban­nock.net) and Tim­ber (tim­ber­van­cou­ver. com).

Talaysay Tours (talaysay.com), Squamish Lil’wat Cul­tural Cen­tre (slcc. ca), Au­dain Art Mu­seum (au­dainart­mu­seum.com), Mu­seum of An­thro­pol­ogy at UBC (moa.ubc.ca).

hel­lobc.com, touris­m­van­cou­ver.com, abo­rig­i­nalbc.com, whistler.com. ther­mos, ad­mir­ing the red cedar (“tree of life”).

I also mar­velled at cedar at the Au­dain Art Mu­seum in Whistler. And at the Squamish Lil’wat Cul­tural Cen­tre, af­ter eat­ing ban­nock ta­cos in the Thun­der­bird Café, I was taught Coast Sal­ish wool weav­ing by Al­li­son Burn­sJoseph of Squamish Na­tion.

Us­ing a ta­ble loom, I made a wall hang­ing. “When wool weavers weave,” Burns-Joseph says, “they do it with love, re­spect and hon­our so that the wear­ers will be pro­tected.”

Burns-Joseph prom­ises that the love I put into my minia­ture wall hang­ing will linger and if I “feel a lit­tle down and out” I can rub it to get some of that good en­ergy back. The au­thor was hosted by Des­ti­na­tion B.C., Tourism Van­cou­ver and Tourism Whistler, which didn’t re­view or ap­prove this story.

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