USLCES gears up for 'fam' tours

By Paul Dickinson

Lillooet News

Local bands are giving residents and tourists alike a chance to experience St'át'imc culture firsthand.

The Upper St'át'imc Language, Culture, and Education Society (USLCES) is gearing up for familiarization tours with Xwisten (Bridge River), Tsal'lh (Seton Lake), T'it'q'et (Lillooet), and SŽkw'el'was (Cayoosh). The tours for locals will take place from Aug. 9-12, while tour groups will visit the areas Aug. 17-19.

The tours for out-of-town groups are being organized by USLCES summer employee Natasha Billy.

"We have 10 tour operators coming," she states. "There are a few from Vancouver, some from Whistler, one from Washington and even one from Japan."

Plans are afoot to organize a tour with Ts'kw'aylaxw (Pavilion) this year and with Xaxli'p (Fountain) next year.

Project supervisor and USLCES representative Brenda Ireland says the society is looking for tourism infrastructure funding.

Next week's tours for locals, organized by summer employee Thomas Terry, will each last approximately three to five hours, and feature a traditional meal for participants. Each tour will offer specific activities for the region, including craft making, observing traditional fishing practices, hiking, and story telling.

"Each community has something unique to offer," says Ireland. "We're encouraging the communities to complement one another with their tours."

Terry says the fam tour project is an excellent opportunity for the St'át'imc communities.

"There are cultural tours everywhere," he says. "We feel it's time for the St'át'imc people to share who we are, what we've done, and where we are today."

He also acknowledges that some communities have been doing fam tour projects for years, and says that USLCES hopes to help those projects expand.

Ireland says the ultimate goal is for the St'át'imc Cultural Centre to become "the hub of tourism in Lillooet.

"We're hoping for a symbiotic relationship between the centre and the communities," she says. "We're also hoping for support from the larger community, not just the St'át'imc community."

A commission would be collected by the centre to help support other language and culture preservation initiatives and to help cover its operating costs.

"I think it's important to recognize the 11 USLCES board members who have worked as volunteers in the background," Ireland says. "The cultural centre is just one aspect of their initiative."

"I remember taking St'át'imcets in the old school (located at the current REC Centre site) as well as the new school," Terry adds. "That's how long these people have been working to preserve our language and culture."

Bridge River Lillooet News Aug 3rd 2005.

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