Exploring the Culture, History, and Heritage in and around the Shuswap Region

The Shuswap area has a deep-seeded culture, history, and heritage. It’s home to many First Nations people who have lived on the land for thousands of years – and it’s home to us here at Quaaout Lodge.

The History and Heritage of Quaaout Lodge

Quaaout Lodge and Spa at Talking Rock Golf Resort’s history is rich and was built on the grounds of the Skwlax (known as “black bear” in the Shuswap language) territory. Ground-breaking ceremonies took place in 1991, but Little Shuswap Lake Band members conceived the idea in 1979 with the goal of offering employment and long-term security for the band and its members. The vision was to spur economic development with a sustainable business venture. Elder and former Chief, William Arnouse, chose the name “Quaaout,” meaning “when the sun’s rays first hit the water” in Secwepemctisin. Councillor John Anderson designed the logo, and former Chief Felix Arnouse worked closely with the architects to design the lodge’s Kekuli (or “pit house”) which is a Shuswap winter home and is the vision of our spectacular lobby.

When we opened our doors in 1992, Quaaout Lodge enlisted golf architect Les Furber to design an outline for a championship golf course. In 2001, the newly opened Quaaout Conference Centre provided an opportunity for the resort and the community to gather and host events such as weddings, business meetings, trade shows, community gatherings, and theatre shows. Twelve years after planning began on what would later become PGA of Canada’s 2019 #19 pick for Public Course in Canada, Talking Rock Golf Course opened in March 2007. The band chose this name to recognize their ancestors who often painted or carved pictographs to record historic events and legends-the rocks told a story. In the years that followed here at Quaaout Lodge, we added a sports lounge to our dining room, completed extensive renovations – which included the addition of balconies to all our guest rooms and suites so our breathtaking views could be properly enjoyed. Lastly, we opened Le7ke Day Spa. Today, Quaaout Lodge and Spa at Talking Rock Golf Resort is the pride of the Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band.

The Secwepemc (or Shuswap) People and Their Culture

Approximately 7,000 people make up the Secwepemc Nation, which spans 180,000 sq km and is home to 17 bands that form three Tribal Councils: the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, which includes Adams Lake Indian Band, Bonaparte Indian Band, Neskonlith Indian Band, Shuswap Indian Band, North Thompson River First Nation, Deadman’s Creek Indian Band, Splatsin First Nation, Kamloops Indian Band, and Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band; the Northern Shuswap Tribal Council, which includes Canim Lake Band, Canoe Creek Indian Band, Soda Creek Indian Band, and Williams Lake Indian Band; and the Lillooet Tribal Council, which includes Bridge River Indian Band, Cayoose Creek Indian Band, Fountain Band, Pavilion Indian Band, and Seton Lake Band.

Their traditional territory has been home to the Secwepemc peoples for more than 12,000 years. It spans a large area from the Columbia River valley aside the Rocky Mountains, west to the Fraser River, and then south to the Arrow Lakes. Today, the scenic Indian reserve is a fishing destination and a refuge to an abundance of wildlife thanks to limitations on hunting, and its stunning flora and fauna are a delight to photograph and to experience. The Chief and Council of the Little Shuswap Lake Band welcome visitors to arrive as guests and leave as friends. They ask everyone to treat the land and people respectfully as Mother Earth is the great spirit’s home for eternity.

Indigenous Cultural Experiences at Quaaout Lodge

Immerse yourself in one of Quaaout Lodge’s incredible Indigenous cultural experiences. Available by appointment only, our cultural interpreters would be happy to give you a tour of our beautiful grounds or answer any questions you may have. We also offer several exciting cultural activities for you to enjoy. During our Walk the Lands Tour, our cultural interpretive guide leads guests around the Secwepemc territory while sharing teachings about traditional Shuswap landmarks and Secwepemc history. During our Ethnobotany Tour, in addition to teachings about traditional Shuswap landmarks, our cultural interpretive guide also shares teachings about the various plants we still use for medicine and food today. If you love to hear stories by the warmth of a fire, our cultural interpretive guide will transport you back in time and share stories from before the Europeans arrived through to modern day during our Kekuli Storytelling experience. Each of those experiences begins with a smudge, a Secwepemc tradition to cleanse the body. Complimentary smudges are also available weekly in the outdoor Gazebo or by private session.

If you enjoy working with your hands, our Drum Marking Workshop may move you. There, you will create your own deer hide drum and learn about Secwepemc teachings and history. If you are interested in art, our Paddle Painting and Rock Painting experiences may colour your world; Rock Painting is an especially great activity for kids to enjoy and is a great way to teach younger guests about our area’s culture! Finally, we offer a custom-tailored Spiritual Guidance experience, which starts with a smudge to cleanse your body and soul. Be sure to book your Secwepemc Cultural Experience early to avoid disappointment!

What Happens in a Smudging Ceremony?

Smudging is an ancient art practised by many Indigenous peoples to clear our air, minds, spirits, and emotions. A smudge ceremony is led by someone who has a knowledge and understanding about smudging – typically an Elder or traditional teacher. It enables people to slow down, be mindful, and connect to the task at hand. Smudging also helps people release negativities that may prevent them from being focused and balanced.

During a smudging ceremony, one or more sacred medicines gathered from our earth – sweetgrass, cedar, sage, and tobacco – are placed in a smudge container such as a shell; a copper, brass, or cast-iron pan; or a stone bowl. The container represents the first of four elements (water) and the sacred plants represent the second (earth). Next, the medicine is ignited (with a wooden match if possible). The burning medicine represents the third element (fire) and the resulting smoke represents the fourth (air).

The individual leading the smudge starts by pulling the smoke toward themselves with an eagle feather or with their hands. First, they cleanse their hands with smoke as though they are washing their hands. Then, they draw the smoke over their heads to remind them to think good thoughts, their eyes to remind them to see good actions, their ears to remind them to hear good sounds, their mouths to remind them to speak good words, and their bodies to remind them to show their goodness.

Respect for all is a key principle for Indigenous people. No one should ever be forced or pressured to participate in a smudging ceremony. If an individual chooses not to be smudged, they may choose to refrain but remain in the room or they may vacate the premises. Both options are entirely acceptable. If an individual chooses to participate, they may waft the smoke over their bodies or the smudge leader may direct it over their bodies for them. Traditionally, at the end of the ceremony, the ashes are disposed of outside on bare soil and returned to Mother Earth.

Ideas for Educational Field Trips in British Columbia, Canada

Classrooms are not the only place students can learn. In fact, some experiences simply cannot be replicated in a classroom environment. Field trips are an often memorable and significant learning opportunity that provide a unique way for students to better understand and appreciate their world. If you’re looking to plan an educational field trip in British Columbia, look no further than Quaaout Lodge and Spa at Talking Rock Golf Resort.

At Quaaout Lodge, we offer a variety of engaging programs for students of all ages. During our on-site school group tour, students will sit around a fire and listen to stories about how Indigenous people lived from before Europeans through to modern day. They will then tour the sacred Secwepemc Lands and learn about the local plants that are used for food and medicine. Their experience culminates with our Rock Painting activity where students will learn about pictographs and create their very own design – unless of course you opt for one (or both!) of our tour enhancements: a Dreamcatcher Workshop and Paddle Painting. To nourish their bodies, Quaaout also provides an optional delicious bannock and hot chocolate snack and bagged lunch. If you’re looking for off-site school group visits, definitely reach out to us here at Quaaout Lodge and we’d be happy to accommodate you!

Explore the Lakeside TownsAround Shuswap Lake, BC

The Shuswap Lake area is a spectacular area to explore. Located north of the Okanagan between Kamloops and Revelstoke, the H-shaped Shuswap Lake boasts more than 1,000 km of shoreline and is comprised of four large arms that all coverage at Cinnemousun Narrows: the Shuswap Lake Main Arm, Anstey Arm, Salmon Arm, and Seymour Arm. Approximately 15,000 people call Shuswap Lake home in the towns on or near the lake including (from west to east):

Chase: known as “The Gateway to the Shuswap,” Chase is acclaimed for its stunning scenery, beautiful lakes, recreational activities, and fantastic four seasons.

North Shuswap: sunny North Shuswap is home to the world-renowned Adams River salmon run and the breathtaking Shuswap Lake Provincial Park.

Sorrento:a lakeside vacation destination surrounded by rivers, forests, alpine meadows, and snow-capped mountains.

Blind Bay:a lively community aptly named for the angle the bay joins Shuswap Lake – making it virtually impossible to see.

Eagle Bay: a recreation destination with panoramic views of Shuswap Lake and Crowfoot Mountain, it is known for its swimming, waterskiing, and houseboating.

Tappen:long known as a recreation and retirement haven, Tappen is also home to a large artisan community as well as hobby and traditional farms.

Salmon Arm: known as “The Northern Gateway to the Okanagan,” and located midway between Calgary and Vancouver, Salmon Arm is the Shuswap’s largest town and has a bustling tourism industry.

Sicamous: acclaimed as “The Houseboat Capital of Canada,” Sicamous has more than 200 rental houseboats and has been in the houseboat business for more than 45 years.

British Columbia’s History and Culture

Long before its first European settlers landed, British Columbia was one of the continent’s most multicultural areas. Its history begins with its First Nations peoples, who have resided in the area for more than 10,000 years. American explorers as well as explorers from Britain, Russia, and Spain, began frequenting the region in the 1750s. The Hudson’s Bay Company spread west of the Rocky Mountains in the first half of the 1800s. In 1849, the British colonized Vancouver Island; B.C. was a British colony until it joined Canada in 1871. The passage from eastern Canada to the west opened in 1885 with the emergence of the Canadian Pacific Railroad, which bolstered trade and travel as well as movement of resources from the Atlantic to Pacific Oceans. The 1900s were characterized by growth and development – including in its population. Vancouver became the west’s most populous area – a distinction that remains true today. The Vancouver and Whistler Olympic and Paralympic games brought worldwide attention to the region in 2010.

Today, Indigenous people continue to be a mainstay of the province. British Columbia is home to more than 200,000 Indigenous people including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. There are 198 unique First Nations who speak more than 30 distinct First Nations languages and nearly 60 dialects. B.C. also has strong Asian influences stemming back to the Chinese workers who did dangerous work constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway. Vancouver and Victoria have renowned Chinatowns and dragon boat festivals and Victoria’s Japanese gardens and cherry blossoms are living representations of its Asian ties.

Indigenous Cultural Celebrations and Events in BC

 The annual August long weekend Kamloops Powwow celebrates the heritage of the province of British Columbia’s Secwepemc people and is one of Western Canada’s largest gatherings of Indigenous culture. The Powwow was started in 1980 and features more than one thousand dancers who gather to tell stories, share songs, and dance in traditional regalia in celebration of the Secwepemc people and their Indigenous heritage. This major event attracts more than 20,000 spectators – both peoples of British Columbia and global guests – and represents rejuvenation, encouragement, and recognition of Indigenous cultures. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this annual event was cancelled the last two years, but organizers have their sights set on 2022.

While it’s not technically an event, Indigenous Tourism BC has put together a two-day itinerary that celebrates Secwepemc. “48 Hours Around Kamloops” involves a canoe journey, Secwepemc history, and resort relaxation – which starts with a 4 PM check in on Day 1 at Quaaout Lodge and Spa at Talking Rock Golf Resort, dinner at its on-site restaurant, Jack Sam’s Restaurant and Lounge, and a relaxing sunset canoe ride on the majestic Little Shuswap Lake. On Day 2, a local knowledge keeper from Moccasin Trails can guide you on a canoe journey on the South Thompson River where you will enrich your mind with storiesof the Shuswap peoples through traditional songs. Then, you can head back to Quaaout Lodge’s Le7ke Spa to relax your body with a treatment from a certified professional. Finally, after a good night’s sleep, you can round out the 48-hour experience by heading north in Secwepemc territory toTsutswecw Provincial Park or south in the Traditional Territory of the Syilx and Nlaka’pamux peoples toKekuli Café, which is Canada’s first Indigenous franchise.

We are proud of all we have to offer at Quaaout Lodge so you too can learn about Secwepemc traditions and Indigenous cultures that are rooted in our area. To begin your experience of Indigenous culture of BC, contact us here at Quaaout Lodge.