12 Dec 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.