Supporting Reconciliation Through Art & Tourism
Caroline Phelps talks about the artist in residence program at Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel & Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Reconciliation is becoming a common term in Canadian society. According to a recent survey, 79% of Canadians believe that supporting Indigenous business actually strengthens our social fabric 1. For my final semester of law school, I wrote a paper focused on how to revitalize Indigenous economies. I started by making sure the reader was aware that First Nations people in British Columbia did specialize in producing products, they had trade routes and languages. We were not, as John A. MacDonald put it - savages 2.
From my perspective, there still seems to be a disconnect between Canadians awareness of local Indigenous businesses. To be honest, I didn’t even know that Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel and Gallery existed until my partner Rebekah showed me a post on social media. Once I began looking into the hotel and gallery I was blown away, and a bit surprised that it is right under my noes, in Vancouver BC.
There are two main elements of this great social enterprise. The hotel has 18 one-of-a-kind rooms designed by six of Vancouver's top hotel designers partnered with six Indigenous artists. There is also a street-level art gallery, that supports on-site housing and studio space for 24 Indigenous artists. They allow Indigenous creators to come to Vancouver, pay affordable rent, and develop their craft.
Why is this necessary? Well, the last 100 years have been difficult for many First Nation communities across British Columbia. It is difficult to become an artist, even if the circumstances are right. It is even more challenging to become an artist if you don’t have access to other creators insights, resources, and a spot to display your work. The Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel and Gallery addresses these challenges. Through this brilliant organization, everyday Canadians can learn about Indigenous artists, traditions and culture by shopping on their website, or visiting the hotel in Vancouver, British Columbia.
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My guest this week is Caroline Phelps. Caroline Phelps is the Artist In Residence Program Coordinator, Cultural Liaison Lead at the Skwachàys Lodge Aboriginal Hotel & Gallery. She was kind enough to make the trip out to talk about how the hotel and gallery started in 2012, some of the artists who have utilized the program, and the difference it is making on Indigenous artwork.
Caroline and I also discuss Tribal Canoe Journeys, Hereditary Chiefs, different First Nation communities cultural traditions, Indian Day School and so much more. It is always a pleasure to sit down with individuals who have a wealth of wisdom to share with listeners. I found Caroline Phelps to be very introspective, thoughtful and strong. She did not let the adversity she faced while attending Indian Day School define her. She did not let the world discourage her from connecting with her Indigenous culture, and she passes those teachings onto her children.
I learned a great deal from this interview, and I will absolutely be visiting the gallery and showing my support for this innovative social enterprise seeking to make Indigenous culture more accessible to everyday Canadians. I hope you have the chance to hear from Caroline, and check out this great local landmark! The episode is available now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and YouTube.