Words by Christine Retschlag
Vancouver is better known as one of Canada’s more contemporary cities; recently, it’s begun embracing its ancient culture as well. Start at Skwachàys Lodge, housed in a Victorian-era style building, which was a former single-occupancy hotel for fishermen, loggers and miners in British Columbia. In 2012 it reopened as a healing lodge with basic rooms for indigenous people travelling to Vancouver for health treatments, but it wasn’t until 2014 that it underwent a complete refurbishment.
Today, this multi-award winning complex boasts an Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery at street level, 24 apartments for Aboriginal artists-in-residence, and 18 boutique hotel units for socially responsible travellers. An 18-metre-long red cedar totem featuring a man, raven, bear and three watchmen at the top runs through the heart of the hotel.
A highlight of a stay here is undergoing, by appointment, a traditional healing with a medicine man on the lodge’s rooftop sweat lodge. Inside this tepee, the temperature from smoldering coals reaches 50° Celsius
In Vancouver’s iconic Stanley Park, join Talaysay Tours which offer authentic Aboriginal cultural and eco experience such as the Talking Trees tour which explains how Indigenous people foraged for food.
Canada’s Aboriginal history is also weaving its way into the food story of the city. Vancouver’s only First Nation restaurant Salmon and Bannock specialises in wild fish, free-range game meat and indigenous flat bread bannock.
For a comprehensive overview of Vancouver’s indigenous history, the Museum of Anthropology houses one of Canada’s largest collections of First Nations art, including an impressive display of traditional totem poles.
The best time to visit?
A city known for its winter rain, head to Vancouver during the warmer and drier months of April to October. In October, enjoy the changing colours of the autumn leaves - for which Canada is renowned.