The Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre is situated on the Vancouver Island and features authentic artwork and crafts. It is located between Nanaimo and Victoria in Dunacan.
The Cowichan Nation
The centre is managed and owned by the Cowichan Tribe, which lives in the Cowichan Valley and the area of the Shawnigan Lake and Cowichan Lake. In fact, Cowichan is the English word for Quw’utsun which means the warm lands. This is because of the long growing season and great climate in the area.
The Cowichan nation comprises of different bands, including Somena, Khenipsen, Quamichan, Koksilah, Kilpaulus, Clemclemaluts, and Comeakin. Some 3,900 people live in the area nowadays. The area of the reserve covers some 1,750 square kilometres. In addition to the Cultural and Conference Centre, other tribal managed businesses include the Millwork and Joinery Limited Partnership and the Forest Services Limited Partnership.
Visitors of the centre enjoy an excellent view of the river and can visit several facilities such as the courtyard, Riverside Café Patio, and Comeakin Hall. There are seven rooms in total, but the facilities are spacious and can accommodate many visitors. The facility also features a theatre and a nice gift shop, offering traditional artwork for sale. Large events are also organized on a regular basis as it is a good location for events, whether a celebration, business meeting, ceremonial, etc. There is a total of 250 banquet and theatre seats while the meeting space covers an area of 9,400 sq. feet. The largest meeting room in the centre is 3,600 sq. feet.
Plenty of parking spaces are available, and the centre is conveniently located right off the highway. The distance to the airport is just 80 km.
In 2016, there were talks of the centre closing doors due to the lack of funding and shortage of visitors.
What to Do
There is plenty to do, whether travelling alone, with friends, or family. The centre offers activities and tours such as live demonstrations, displays, salmon barbeques, displays of traditional artwork, and more. Tour guides retell traditional spirit stories as well. They explain the hidden meanings of buildings, stories, and totems and their cultural and social significance. Visitors are welcome to try traditional food at the Riverwalk Café, including halibut, buffalo, venison, and rabbit. Candied salmon and fry bread are delicious. Meals are served with a basket full of traditional freshly baked breads. The food is tasty and moderately priced, the décor is plain, and the service – good. Visitors have the opportunity to watch a short movie in the theatre as well (about 20 minutes).
The facilities at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre combine traditional objects and artifacts with high-tech equipment. Native plants can be seen in the garden. The presentation by the Khowutzun Tzinquaw Dancers is a must see. The centre is also advertised as the world’s largest carving house, and visitors are offered the opportunity to carve their own totem or watch artisans carve totems. The Cowichan tribes are also known for intricately knitted sweaters, and this is where you can buy one.
The centre is a great place for anyone who is interested in tribal and Native American culture, art, history, and tradition.