The Community Reconciliation Canoe

The Community Reconciliation Canoe

We often say that the beauty of this land is “untouched”. Vast mountains, rivers, creatures, and forests served up for people to visit, live and play on. But it is not untouched, rather it has been touched so very well, cared for by the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation peoples since time immemorial.

The Community Reconciliation Canoe bridges any distance between all the hearts travelling to this land, those living in appreciation on it, and the original peoples who steward the landscape before you. Together, a canoe was created, thoughtfully carved by Master Carvers, Elders, youth from the Nations, residents of Whistler and visitors who come to play here. The Community Reconciliation Canoe is a vessel to bridge Nations, residents, and visitors together – reminding us of a common thread between us – a connection, appreciation and reverence for the land and beauty that is Cwítima (‘Whistler’ – Lil’wat Nation), Sk̲wik̲w (‘Whistler’ – Squamish Nation).

In the summer of 2022, the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre (SLCC) hosted the carving of the Community Reconciliation Canoe, with Master Carver Chief Ray Natraoro (Ses Siyam) of Squamish Nation leading SLCC Apprentices, Brandon Hall (Squamish Nation) and Q̓áwam̓ Redmond Andrews (Lil’wat Nation) carving the canoe at the entrance to SLCC’s Great Hall. As part of the Salish Summer Carving Series, the carving began with a blessing ceremony in April of 2022 and showcased carvers working and featured in guided tours throughout the summer.

As one of the specialized professions in the Squamish Nation, Natraoro is one of the very few people with the knowledge to carve dugout canoes on the Northwest Coast. “Canoe carving is a special gift that has been handed down through our generations by an unbroken line in my family lineage which I am proud to carry on for the next generation.” says Natraoro. “It is important and vital to share and pass down the ancient craft techniques of our ancestors and to work with youth to obtain transformational knowledge. Our tradition has always been based on an oral history, language and culture and this has sustained us since our first ancestors. With this project, I’ll be sharing the sacred craft tradition from my family to pass on to those interested in learning and want to experience carving a canoe.”

“The ability to have a Master Artist teaching their apprentices is extremely valuable to the SLCC and our Ambassadors. This is our traditional education system, the transfer of knowledge is a sacred, long-lasting bond. We don’t just learn the technical side of canoe carving, we learn the protocols, sustainability, family connections and the history of our people.” says Mixalhítsa7 Alison Pascal, Curator at the SLCC. “Ses Siyam Ray Natraoro is a wealth of knowledge; he’s a renowned artist of traditional work, using Salish forms in contemporary styles, as a canoe carver and a song maker, it’s an amazing opportunity for Brandon and Q̓áwam̓ Redmond to work with him this summer.”

Guests, neighbours, school groups and members visited, and watched the carvers in action, some taking a special curated Canoe Tour, listening to the songs of these river and ocean vessels, and taking their own turn – thoughtfully carving with good intention at the old fallen cedar, being part of giving it a new life to commemorate SLCC’s Salish Summer Carving Series, and continuing our journey towards reconciliation. Everyone was able to be gifted with the cedar shavings of their efforts, urging them to keep it as a reminder of our commitment to moving forward together or to bring it as an offering to the place they connect to in Whistler, turning their reverence for this land into a deep appreciation for the Nations and the ancestors who have protected it for the last 10,000 years. As an alternative to carving, younger guests were invited to sign their names on the paddle as a symbol of connection to the canoe carving project and symbolize their commitment to paddle together in reconciliation.

For both Nations, canoes are a living being, gifted from the earth and trees transformed by our canoe carvers, connecting people through the waters and to the land. Traditionally, the remaining natural elements of the work such as cedar shavings are returned to the land. Guests participating in the Canoe tour were gifted with cedar shavings from the canoe, while some participants were chosen to join cultural leaders in carving the sacred cedar, and are encouraged to bring the cedar shavings to their favourite place on this territory, one that connects them to the land. Reflect on the 10,000 years of people here before us. The ancestors who knew when to take and when not to, preserving its life for us to be enjoying it today. Symbolically giving the cedar back to the land in the place you have chosen, pledging to move forward in reconciliation, standing with the SLCC and the original peoples of this land. If you choose to share your reflection with Ambassadors and Nation members on social media, use the hashtags:

#SLCCSalishSummer #SLCCCommunityReconciliationCanoe #IAmWithTheSLCC

The canoe was celebrated on local waters on Friday October 14, commemorating the Salish Summer carving, each of us coming together to continue our journey in a good way and building a path forward in reconciliation. The Canoe was blessed at Lakeside Park, Whistler by the Squamish Nation Canoe Family before Apprentices took the canoe for its first journey on the waters of Alta Lake in Whistler. The Community Reconciliation Canoe can be seen at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, and in the future will find a permanent home in Whistler, the shared territory of the Skw̲xw̲ú7mesh and Lílw̓at7úl.

Through this Community Reconciliation Canoe, the SLCC cultivate the distinctive Skw̲xw̲ú7mesh and Lílw̓at7úl ways – the authentic Indigenous culture of the shared territories that Whistler stands on, sharing a truly meaningful cultural experience with the community, guests and global audience.

The Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre would like to thank Pacific Economic Development Canada, BC Arts Council and the Resort Municipality of Whistler for their generous support of the Community Reconciliation Canoe.


Join our Paddling through the Nations Canoe Tour and learn moe about the Community Reconciliation Canoe.

Paddling through the Nations

Guided by an SLCC Cultural Ambassador guests will be welcomed with a drum song, and hear storytelling of historic canoes from both the Squamish Nation and Lil’wat Nation and then be introduced to the Community Reconciliation Canoe, carved in the summer of 2022.

Included with Museum Admission, the Paddling through the Nations Tour can also be booked as a private group tour for any age including school groups and can include add-on interactive craft workshops such as the Cedar Paddle Rattle or Cedar Paddle Necklace.

Past Exhibit