Telling the authentic story of Sto:lo culture

Sto:lō Gift Shop is getting ready for grand re-opening celebrations on Friday, Nov. 28 and Saturday, Nov. 29.

Carrielynn Victor will be making and serving traditional Sto:lo tea during this weekend's grand reopening of the Sto:lo Gift Shop.

Cultural authenticity is a big part of the new vision.

The Sto:lō Gift Shop is getting ready for grand re-opening celebrations on Friday, November 28 and Saturday, November 29.

They’ve renovated the shop on the Coqualeetza site, and added art work, clothing and designs from even more aboriginal artists and artisans.

“The gift shop’s new approach and development offers quality products and service in a warm traditional setting,” said Francine Douglas, cultural tourism and events coordinator for Sto:lo Tourism.

They’re stocked up with everything from greeting cards, beaded earrings, flip flops to cedar hats, carved masks and paintings. Some items cost $10, while others go right up into the hundreds or thousands.

“Authenticity is really important,” said Douglas. “For for too long our people have not capitalized on this to the degree they could have.

“We see others moving forward in this way, and have seen some take (aboriginal) designs or pieces that tell our story, and slap it on a cup to sell for profit.

“But part of what we want to do here is tell the real story of our culture, of our history, of our families, of our artists.

“In Sto:lo communities, our artists are not just making things that are pretty, they have an important role to play in passing down our teachings.”

One of the shop’s featured artists, Carrielynn Victor, is an example of someone who actively shares the teachings, said Douglas.

“She’s actually out on the land, learning the culture and passing that information down for us,” she said.

Victor is a traditional plant practitioner, as well as a visual artist, writer, hip hop artist, with a strong interest in her roots.

She’ll be sharing a blend of traditional Sto:lo tea with visitors at the opening. It is Labrador tea, made from leaves she gathered herself.

“It’s a popular day to day tea because it’s so mild. We call it moqwem,” Victor said. “It’s becoming really hard to find in the Fraser Valley because it grows in bogs, and we’ve seen wetlands decrease.”

She’ll be adding some dried rosehips to the tea, which were grown outside the shop, for added vitamin C.

Some of her artwork is featured in the shop from a book on the Oregon Spotted Frog, called Shy frog, to Chickadee Sunset prints in brilliant orange, to her rainbow inspired T-shirt design of Chilliwack Mountain called Finding Violet.

The tea will be served at the grand opening celebrations, along with bannock, but will not be for sale.

The timing is also in time for the holidays, with one of a kind items going on the shelves from local Sto:lō artisans as well as gift products, books, housewares, blankets, ties, scarves and other images from aboriginal artists from around B.C. The two-day Grand Opening will include a Sto:lō traditional welcome and ribbon cutting ceremony at 2 p.m. on Friday, November 28, and then opportunities for visitors to experience Sto:lō culture, history and art.

On both days, the Sto:lō Gift Shop will feature cultural tours at 1 p.m., cedar bracelet making at 2:30 p.m., Sto:lō Film Screening at 3 p.m., Salish Weaving on a traditional loom at 4 p.m. and Bannock with jam and Traditional Sto:lō tea throughout the day. A fashion show with Lyn Kay Peters and Nikki LaRock is set for Friday November 28 at 7 p.m. as a part of the opening celebrations.

The building which houses the gift shop and interpretive centre was originally designed like a traditional long house, with slanted rooflines and cedar plank siding.

Guests can enter at the gift shop throughout the two days and a winner will be selected by random draw at closing on Saturday.

The Sto:lō Gift Shop will be open Thursdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. during the Christmas season for unique cultural gifts. The shop is on the Sto:lo Nation site, at the back of the grounds, at 19-7201 Vedder Road.