If slowing down and really getting to know a place is part of your perfect vacation, put Lakeshore Resort’s Tipi Cultural Campout on your list. Located at the quiet end of Windermere Lake and 100 per cent owned by the local ?akisq’nuk Band of the Ktunaxa First Nation, it is a far Eagle’s cry from the hustle and bustle of the lake’s northern reaches.
After a cooling afternoon dip in the quiet lake, we all gathered at the tipi site to get to know our neighbours for the night and perform a traditional smudge to purify our thoughts and intentions for the program. Hosts and sisters Melanie Phillips and Jacqueline Birdstone led us through the act of using sagebrush smoke to cleanse our bodies, minds and hearts before introducing us to the activities we were about to undertake.
“For generations the Residential Schools took our children away. We Ktunaxa people, and most First Nations, were told that our culture was bad, and so we hid it away,” explained Phillips as she and Birdstone shared a set of beautiful black and white historical photos of her ancestors in their finest regalia in the early 1900’s.
“We are finally at a point where my generation is ready to share our culture, and celebrate it. We don’t care where you are from or what colour your skin is, we want to meet you, share our culture with you, and learn a bit about where you are from.”
really captures what Lakeshore Resort is all about. After fielding questions and sharing
some of the tongue-twisting Ktunaxa language with a circle of guests from
Ireland, Germany and across the Kootenays, she wrapped up her introduction
with the words all campers love to hear: “Let’s eat!”
Everyone got to knead and bake their own bannock-on-a-stick over the campfire while we waited for the main course: a hearty bison stew. Nobody even noticed the smoky skies as we roasted 'smores and a small herd of laughing children charged around the tipis playing games of Tag and Mantracker.
Finally, as darkness
settled we all snuggled into our family tipis, cozy in our own sleeping bags
and camp mattresses and fell asleep with the moonlight shining on tipi walls.
In the morning we woke up to coffee, hot chocolate, home-made porridge and fruit in the campground pavilion before making our own mini-tipis and medicine bundles, and heading out on a short nature walk.
On the Sagebrush Trail we gained a true sense of the intentional nature of ?akisq’nuk’s planning as we stopped at interpretive signs so Melanie could share the Ktunaxa Creation Story, some Ktunaxa names and a brief overview of over 10,000 years of Ktunaxa history in the valley. This area was left in it’s true grassland state to protect extensive archeological evidence of old campsites, but wildlife also benefit from this reserve. Badger dens, a beaver lodge, abundant waterfowl and elk sign everywhere attest that a balance has been struck that allows human enjoyment of the area while still leaving room for the neighbours.
Returning past some of Lakeshore’s tastefully done leased sites and numerous campsites nestled along a tiny creek, we got a sense of the care that has gone into planning this award-winning ?akisq’nuk resort. The pride and hospitality shared by Melanie and Jaqueline was contagious, leaving everyone full of appreciation and wonder, which is just what a good vacation should do.
Words and photos by Dave Quinn. Born in Cranbrook, BC; Dave is a wildlife biologist, educator, wilderness guide, writer and photographer whose work is driven by his passion for wilderness and wild spaces. His work with endangered mountain caribou and badgers, threatened fisher and grizzly, as well as lynx and other species has helped shape his understanding of the Kootenay backcountry and its wildlife.