híwus First Nations Cultural Program
I have taken three groups of students, including Aboriginal youths, to this Education program that is available at Grouse Mountain for a fee. At the feasthouse (Longhouse) up at Grouse that has been built for this experience, students hear legends, learn some Squamish words, sing songs with Squamish sayings, and of course dance. The highlight of the day for the students is watching their teachers dance in characters such as Killer Whales and Wolves. There are videos of our staff doing these dances that make the Elaine dance on Seinfeld look downright respectable.
The elder, Kwel-a-a-nexw (goes by Eddy as I recall) does a great job of orienting students to the ways of the Squamish. The experience feels authentic, but overly rehearsed. After having experienced it three times, I now know what to expect. What’s interesting is the time spent recounting the history and practices of the Squamish and other First Nations tribes that occupied the West Coast.
The walk to the feasthouse is done on snowshoes in the winter and this adds to the excitement of students. Unfortunately, the snowshoes are made of aluminum, so the snowshoeing experience is not exactly true to the original.
In the full day experience, Aboriginal cuisine is served and some craftwork is done. My students have only visited for the one hour tour, as part of a trip to the mountain, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
The website for this program contains tons of useful information and links to British Columbia Prescribed Learning Outcomes (PLO’s).
I am not sure what to make of this experience. As you can see from the website, the program is exceptionally well organized and planned down to the finest detail. I am just not sure if Aboriginal ancestors intended for Longhouse experiences to be so orchestrated. For some, the site may be useful as evidence of the commodification of First Nations culture.