A month or two ago I commented on the Squamish and Lil’wat Cultural Journey website, which explores oral history and place names in the traditional territory of these two southwestern British Columbia First Nations. I was really happy to see that Douglas College Anthropologist (and occasional commenter here) Dr. Tad McIlwraith has carried the review much further. He’s even taken it into the field, so to speak, by documenting and discussing the actual cultural centre itself, and also the roadside kiosks which bring Squamish and Lil’wat histories to the travelling public.
In the first part, Tad reviews the roadside kiosks that are now found along the Sea to Sky highway between Vancouver and Whistler. There are seven of these altogether, and Tad has created a flickr.com photo set for each, making it possible to get the flavour of this impressive project without having to cross the Moat of Georgia. These are worth looking at, because the topic of public archaeology and public education have been coming up repeatedly on this website and yet here we have an actual example of First Nations creating, designing, promoting, and advertising their cultural heritage with a significant portion of the story being an archaeological one. I know the visitors are still standing by the side of a major highway but nonetheless they are being educated in First Nations history and archaeology in the very landscape in which it happened. This has to be a good thing, and Tad’s review shows that the kiosks are effective, tasteful and educational.
As he notes:
For me, the most significant aspect of this cultural journey are the signs that line the Sea-to-sky Highway (Figure 2). Using colours and proportions consistent with Ministry of Transportation highway signage, these creek crossing signs and mileage markers are notable because they don’t stand out as add-ons to existing markers (Figure 3). The signs look official and authentic and, as such, present the Skwxwū7mesh (Squamish) and/or Liĺwat7ul (Lilwat) languages on equal footing with English all along the route.
Good stuff, and I hope we see more of this in B.C., and that it is given the support and input from the archaeological community it richly deserves.
The second part focuses on the Skwxwū7mesh Liĺwat7ul Cultural Centre in Whistler, which Tad gives a rave review of, and also illustrates it with a set at flickr.com. Tad has been seduced by twitter of late (not a bad thing – he’ll keep you up to date on local Anthroplogy!), but it is also good to see him back at the longer form of blogging. If you aren’t familiar with his blog Field Notes: For the Anthropology of British Columbia, it is a treasure trove of good articles on his research and commentary on happenings in B.C. which was dormant for a while but is now back up and running. He’s also a good photographer and his other photo-sets are also worth browsing, especially the ones of Tahltan territory, his principle field site. Some of the HDR ones are quite striking. It’s good to see such active and relevant cultural anthropology happening in B.C. and being brought to the public through so many media.
And yes, if you’re wondering, the rumour is, he is indeed related to that other guy.