Entrepreneur Profile: Tanina Williams

Lil’wat Cultural Tours at Joffre Lake Park

The Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Líl̓wat Stl’atl ímc Business Start-up Program (SLSBSP) has eleven participants elbows deep in the hard work of developing their businesses. The program, being spearheaded by the Whistler Centre for Sustainability in partnership with the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre, helps members from regional Indigenous communities get their business up and off the ground. Applications were submitted from a cross section of Indigenous communities with some participants coming from as far as Tipella, a trek that takes over 3 hours down a rough gravel road. The businesses under development are unique, diverse and address community needs.

We are happy to profile the participants each week here at the Wellness Almanac. You can also follow along at http://www.whistlercentre.ca

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Tanina Williams of Líl̓wat Nation has been positively impacting the lives of people from all walks of life in a cultural setting since she was nineteen years old. In those days, she worked with at-risk-youth and local children. Years passed and the position for a cultural support worker at Signal Hill Elementary came up.

Tanina didn’t know if she wanted to teach in this setting, to pass on knowledge, to work with kids. However, something pulled her. As it turns out it was her own life purpose – born of a desire to work with people to promote honesty, self-acceptance, confidence and patience.

The tools Tanina uses to help in her life work come from her anything-but-ordinary toolkit. A weaver of stories, wool, cedar root and cedar bark. A drummer, carver, and knowledge keeper of traditional plant use. This is the medium where Tanina is most impactful. These are her avenues for inspiring people on how we want to be and how we want to act in this world.

The Líl̓wat cultural knowledge Tanina shares in Sea-to-Sky schools fulfils a government mandate for Indigenous ways of knowing and being, and helps Indigenous students connect to their identity, culture, and families. This same knowledge is shared with all students regardless of their ancestry, helping them understand the impacts of heavy topics like what it means to be (dis)connected to Traditional Territory, how the Residential School System has impacted the kids they sit next to in class. Knowledge that promotes healing and amplifies understanding, that sparks conversations amongst all families on Indigenous culture, because, as Tanina poignantly points out, we are all Indigenous. We all come from somewhere that has culture, born of landscape and born of people. And as we are all Indigenous people, we all walk forward on this healing path.

This same passion for teaching and the ability to bridge gaps is what brought Tanina to the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Líl̓wat Stl’atl ́imcBusiness Start Up Program. Tanina plans to offer Líl̓wat cultural tours at Joffre Lake Provincial Park.

Her tours will share Líl̓wat knowledge on edible and medicinal plants, storytelling, singing and drumming. They will provide local employment, celebrate Líl̓wat culture and language, foster the reclamation of traditional plant knowledge, and offer tourists meaningful connections to this dramatic vista occupied by Líl̓wat people since a time before memory. Experiences that will spark dialogue, wonder, interest, understanding and curiosity.

The need for reclaiming Indigenous language, culture, and ways of being is urgent and pressing, as many Elders and knowledge keepers of this mostly oral information are passing into the next world.

While Tanina has some work ahead of her to set up her business and ensure Líl̓wat cultural protocols are recognized and followed, she plans to start offering her tours by summer 2019. With Indigenous Tourism on a steep rise and visitor numbers to Joffre Lake Park exploding like never before, the business opportunity for Tanina is timely.

For more information about the featured business ideas or the program, contact Cheeying cho@whistlercentre.ca or Dawn djohnson@whistlercentre.ca. The program sends thanks to the supporters listed at the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Líl̓wat Stl’atl ímc Business Start-up Program (SLSBSP) program page for their funding and program contributions. 

Tanina is one of the entrepreneurs you’ll hear from at tomorrow’s Pitch event.

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