Ceremonies and feasts in the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations

When the rains began in the fall the Sk̲wx̲wú7mesh Úwumixw and Lil’wat7ul made sure their families had their winter stocks full for settling into their winter homes. This was also the time ceremonies were held to celebrate the milestones of our lives: birth, name giving, puberty, marriage, rights to songs and dances, memorials and celebrations of life to end grieving periods.

Both Nations underwent lengthy preparation for ceremonies: families prepared themselves mentally and spiritually, they chose appropriate helpers, gathered and preserved plenty of food and gifts. Ceremonies were typically announced many months before they occurred, and very important ceremonies were announced at least one year ahead of time.  This was done to ensure respected guests who had been invited were able to attend. In the days before newspapers, telephones and social media, this was how news was shared amongst families.

Feasts were and continue to be integral to ceremonial processes in the Squamish and Lil’wat Nations, and a ceremony is considered incomplete without one. Feasts are a way to thank guests for attending and ensuring they have the energy to witness the day’s events.

For the feast, many families hire another family to cook for them while they are busy preparing for other elements of the ceremony. The cooks prepare a variety of dishes often highlighting rare or difficult to acquire foods, and they make sure there is an abundance of food on the table for the entire meal’s duration.

Guests are well taken care of during ceremonies: they are formally acknowledged and greeted upon arrival, invited to eat first and to eat plenty. Guests validate ceremonies and share the news with those who are unable to attend.

The Squamish and Lil’wat Nations run their ceremonies in different ways (in Squamish Nation, important ceremonies can last for days!) but each include singing, dancing, and the sharing of food and gifts. Ceremonies and celebrations can be small with only the immediate family in attendance, or large with neighbouring communities invited. No matter the size of the group, a feast always starts the day.

This winter, the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre celebrates the importance of ceremony and tradition by offering a First Nations Winter Feast & Performance program Thursdays and Sundays. Through storytelling, music and dance, rich traditions from both nations are shared with guests as they feast on an indigenous-inspired menu that showcases elements from both traditional territories. Make your reservation at SLCC.ca/Feast.

Alex Wells, Lil’wat Nation, performs at the First Nations Winter Feast & Performance at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.
Alex Wells, Lil’wat Nation, performs at the First Nations Winter Feast & Performance at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre.
First Nations Paella in cedar box created by Peter Wayne Gong (artist featured in Gift Shop)
First Nations Paella in cedar box created by Peter Wayne Gong (artist featured in Gift Shop)
Red Seal Executive Chef David Li serves Braised Bison Short Ribs with apprenticing cook Jocelyn Gabriel, Lil’wat Nation.
Red Seal Executive Chef David Li serves Braised Bison Short Ribs with apprenticing cook Jocelyn Gabriel, Lil’wat Nation.

From the Archives: images of elders preparing berries and salmon.

Image I-29071 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives Theresa Gabriel (left) and unknown Lil’wat woman drying berries (c. 1954).
Image I-29071 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives Theresa Gabriel (left) and unknown Lil’wat woman drying berries (c. 1954).
Image I-29073 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives Lil’wat women drying salmon (year unknown).
Image I-29073 courtesy of the Royal BC Museum and Archives Lil’wat women drying salmon (year unknown).
Image A26465 Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives Mrs. Chief George (Ce-qual-lia / Se-qual-yah) cooking salmon over open fire at No. 3 Reserve, North Vancouver, BC (c. 1940).
Image A26465 Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives Mrs. Chief George (Ce-qual-lia / Se-qual-yah) cooking salmon over open fire at No. 3 Reserve, North Vancouver, BC (c. 1940).
2 Comments
  • Michelle Keating
    Posted at 23:54h, 07 January Reply

    Hi, we are an Australian family of 10. We will be staying at Whistler Creekside from 14th to 28th January. Could you tell me are there dates available for us to m a ke a booking and is there a bus to you and returning, as we will not have a vechile

    • Mandy Rousseau
      Posted at 09:14h, 08 January Reply

      Hi Michelle Keating,
      Thanks for reaching out! We have seats available at the feast Sunday, January 20, and you can book your seats at slcc.ca/feast through the ‘book now’ button.
      While we do not provide shuttle service, there are two reliable options to get you from Whistler Creekside to Whistler’s Upper Village:
      1. You can take Whistler Transit from Whistler Creekside to the Whistler Village (#20, #21, or #25, depending on where along the route you are located) and either transfer onto the Upper Village/Benchlands free shuttle (#5), or walk approximately seven minutes from Whistler Village to our centre (located at 4584 Blackcomb Way).
      2. Alternatively, you can book a taxi van through Whistler Taxi (604.938.3333) or Resort Cabs Whistler (604.938.1515)
      We look forward to welcoming you to the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre!

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