The legacy list for the first nation hosts of the 2010 Winter Olympics – the Squamish, Lil-wat, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh – goes from the symbolic to economic. The most significant changes, they say, may be in the shift of attitudes of Canadians to first nations and a new sense of pride among aboriginal people.
The list includes:
• A $30-million cultural centre in Whistler for the Squamish and Lil’wat first nations. It does everything except make money, says Squamish chief Gibby Jacob. The global travellers have not yet shown up, possibly because of the strong Canadian dollar.
• The transfer of 300 acres of Crown land to the Squamish and Lil’wat first nations. New homes for Squamish and Lil’wat families, financed by a $6.5-million legacy fund. A Squamish-run construction company, which received $19-million in contracts during the Olympics, remains in business.
• Squamish band members who were trained as aboriginal ambassadors for the Olympics are now in college courses on hospitality and tourism.
• New aboriginal names for creeks and mountains on first nations lands used during the Olympics.
• Government acknowledgement of places that first nations hold sacred, which led to rejigging Olympic trails and rerouting stretches of the Sea to Sky Highway. New speed-limit signs along the road from Horseshoe Bay to Whistler were designed in the shape of an upside-down paddle. Kiosks along the highway, topped by woven cedar hats, recount the area’s history and reinforce the presence of the Squamish on their traditional lands.
• Permanent seats on the board of Whistler 2010 Sports Legacies Society for Squamish and Lil’wat first nations. The organization operates the Whistler Olympic Park, the sliding centre and the training centre at the former athletes’ village site.
• The popular cedar and Douglas-fir aboriginal pavilion at the Olympics was moved to Musqueam lands in southwest Vancouver and converted for use as the Musqueam cultural centre.
• A new community recreational centre and soccer field for the Musqueam Indian band, financed from a payment of $17.5-million that the first nation received for hosting the Games on its lands.
• Musqueam artists such as Brent Sparrow are still receiving orders for their glass work and carvings following his Olympic exposure. A Musqueam drum group that came together for Olympic-related performances is still together, performing all over the city.
• A young woman from the Tsleil-Waututh, formerly known as the Burrard Indian band, dealt with her drug and alcohol addictions in order to be a candidate to carry the torch onto the stage at a celebration at Cates Park. She still uses that experience as inspiration to keep a clean and sober life.
• Closer relationships have been developed among the first nations, and between the first nations and their municipal neighbours. “More and more, people are calling us and saying we want you to be part of our group,” says Musqueam member Wade Grant, who is now serving on the Vancouver Police Board.