Dispatch from the In-SHUCK-ch Traditional Territories

My random travels took me to the Skatin First Nation, which is sometimes called Skookumchuck.  Don’t confuse it with the Skookumchuck outside of Cranbrook, BC, though.  This community is located a little over 50 kilometres south of Mount Currie down the old Cariboo Wagon Road, on the east side of the Lillooet River.

View Skatin First Nation and Area

The Skatin First Nation is a member of the In-SHUCK-ch Nation, which is in turn related to the larger St’at’imc community.  The Skatin reserve is currently home to approximately 60 people or so.  According to one resident I spoke to, a number of citizens would like to return to the community but are unable to do so due to housing and employment pressures.

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View into the Skatin First Nation from the Cariboo Wagon Road

The community is known in part for its Church of the Holy Cross, a Carpenter Gothic structure built by local Aboriginal craftspeople.  The interior of the church features incredibly ornate statuary and embellishments, all made of local wood.  It was completed in 1905, and was designated a National Historic Site in 1981.  Conservation is an immense task, and the Ama Liisaos Heritage Trust Society works tirelessly to raise the necessary funds.

On the way back toward Mount Currie, we stopped at the Skookumchuck Hot Springs (or St. Agnes Well Hot Springs) for a brief soak.  The caretaker told me that the site was in private hands for much of the 1800s, but the federal government now holds it in trust for the In-SHUCK-ch Nation.  It is $5.00 to get in for a leisurely soak, which is well worth it given the work that goes into maintaining the place.

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Skookumchuck Hot Springs Source Pool

One innovation is worth remarking on.  The caretaker took solar garden lights, chopped off the stakes, and installed them through the roofs of the outhouses.  The little solar panels charge all day from the outside, and the lights shine all night on the inside.  The only downside is that the spiders think the lights are fantastic, too…

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A Very Vancouver Kind of Day

Why is it that I never hit any of Vancouver’s major sites unless we have visitors in town?  My wife’s cousin and his girlfriend have been visiting from Calgary for the last few days, and we’ve seen more of Vancouver in three days than we do in most months!

Today, we started by hitting the Vancouver Aquarium.  The $28.00 admission is a bit steep but, for just $56.00, you can get an annual pass.  We toured through the beluga exhibit first, and saw the new baby chasing her older sister around the tank.

Belugas can live anywhere between 60 and 80 years!  Apparently, the Aquarium pumps water into the exhibit from Burrard Inlet.  It is filtered, and then chilled to temperatures that they would experience in northern waters and estuaries (between 8 and 10 degrees Celsius).

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We also toured the Tropical, Amazon and BC exhibits.  The interpretive displays are first rate, although the Aquarium seems a little more commercial than I remember.  Ten fifty for a burger and fries!?!?  I suppose the cost of running a facility like that must be astronomical…

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After the Aquarium, we went to the Night Market in Vancouver’s Chinatown.  I avoided the mass consumer products – especially the knock off DVDs – but enjoyed looking at some of the cultural items and goodies.  We tried a few of the culinary delights – the most exotic fare being fried squid and some kind of fish (Sammi?) on a skewer.

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We started at the east end of Keefer Street and worked our way through the booths.  There was entertainment at the west end of Keefer close to the Monument of Canadian Chinese, but it was winding down by the time we worked our way to that end.

If you do stop by the Night Market, keep in mind that the bank machines in the area are locked down by 7:00 p.m. or so – probably due to Chinatown’s proximity to Vancouver’s Downtwon Eastside.  This was a bit inconvenient, but it did cut my wife’s shopping down quite a bit…

Catch up post #1 – the Chocolate Shop

I am way behind in posting to my blog.  I had some things that I wanted to post about, but just have not had any time lately.  Anyway, enough excuses.  Here is catch up post #1.

I was in Winnipeg a week or so ago for work, but also combined the trip with a little sight seeing and catching up with some family members.  One of my colleagues, who is from the Winnipeg area, suggested that we head over to the Chocolate Shop.  What an experience!

The Chocolate Shop has had various incarnations, and apparently was the place to go when my Aunt was younger.  In its current incarnation, the Chocolate Shop is both a restaurant and a culinary arts school.  As it was told to me, the school was started by a former member of an Aboriginal youth gang who now works with marginalized young people.

I initially ordered the bison burger on bannock.  The waiter looked doubtful for a moment, and said “Well, you could have that…  but we’re out of buffalo, so it would be beef…  and I think we’re out of bannock, too…”  I ordered the enchilada special instead.  Not exactly traditional to the Cree people, but it was definitely good – and cheap to boot!

We were also treated to an impromptu performance by a champion hoop dancer who, according to my Aunt, might be from nearby Peguis First Nation.  How he did not knock furniture – or himself – over in that small space was beyond me!

Overall, the Chocolate Shop was quirky, but the food was great and the price was right.  On top of all that, the funds they raise get reinvested in their training program.  If you are in Winnipeg, I would definitely recommend checking it out.