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Forgoing Whistler's slopes for learning of other tribes

February 22, 2009
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WHISTLER, B.C. - The Alpine resort at Whistler Blackcomb, which will host some events of the 2010 Winter Olympics, dates from the 1960s.

But more than 2,000 years before those skiers arrived, the Lil'wat and the Squamish tribes lived on this scenic land tucked in the folds of the Coast Mountains east of Vancouver. For centuries, the two groups called the peaks, waterways, and valleys home. In 2001, the tribes created the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre to celebrate the stories of their peoples.

Designed to resemble a traditional Squamish cedar longhouse and Lil'wat pit house, the museum, which opened last summer, features exhibits detailing not only history and heritage, but also contemporary lifestyles and artwork. After viewing an introductory 15-minute film, visitors may explore on their own or with a native guide, many of whom personalize their tours with family stories.

Enriching the experience are participatory workshops and demonstrations of tribal music, arts, and crafts. In one session, visitors can weave a rope bracelet as a keepsake.

The museum's effort to immerse visitors in the culture of the tribes extends to the cafe, which offers a slightly updated take on traditional foods, such as salmon chowder, venison chili, and a hoagie made with bison, salami, Arctic musk ox, and wild boar.

Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, 4584 Blackcomb Way, Whistler, British Columbia. 866-441-7522; www.slcc.ca. Daily 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Adults $14.50, students and seniors $10.90, ages 13-18 $8.85, 6-12 $6.50.

HILARY NANGLE

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