T'it'q'et and Sekw'el'was host 'fam tour' for Cayoosh kids

Call it a school experiment of a different kind.

Instead of presiding over science projects, students from four classes at Cayoosh Elementary School became willing and happy participants in a practice run for a new tourism project launched by the T'ít'q'et (Lillooet) and Sekw'el'wÒs (Cayoose Creek) communities.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, the Cayoosh students explored T'it'q'et and the natural wonderland that constitutes the Seton Creek spawning channels.

Their visit helped organizers and tour guides prepare for this August, when 20 tour operators from the Lower Mainland will visit Lillooet to participate in St'át'imc cultural tours as part of a major fam (familiarization) tour in this area.

The Chalalth (Seton Lake) and Xwsten (Bridge River) communities will also participate in the cultural tours.

"This is an opportunity for the communities to provide their first test run of their tourism product," explained consultant Brenda Ireland of First Light Initiatives. "I am hoping the larger community can come together to co-ordinate a tourist in your own community' event before the major fam tour in August."

Ireland said the tours were also created to introduce traditional science and technology to the students.

The kids munched mulberries fresh from the tree; listened to St'át'imc songs about salmon and eagles; baked their own potatoes in a fire pit (thimbleberry wraps would have taken hours and hours, so they used non-traditional aluminum foil); sampled baked salmon; learned about the medicinal uses and mosquito-repellent properties of plants such as yarrow and mullen; and checked out berms, bird perches, duck nests and the spawning channels.

It was easy for them to ignore the traffic speeding by on nearby Seton Lake Road as they enjoyed the cool shade provided by dense, green thickets of trees and scampered along pathways, eager to learn about nature's bounty.

The students' visit to the spawning channels was also an opportunity for members of the Sekw'el'was Band to impart some lessons about respecting nature.

"It's all about living in harmony and finding a balance," explained guide Jennifer Calliou.

As she knelt down to point out where a beaver had gnawed at the base of a tree, Calliou told the rapt students, "The beaver lives here, too. We have to respect what they are and make sure there's something for everybody."