Quw’utsun’ Cultural and Conference Centre

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.

Brief Intro

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.

First Nations in BC

The Cowichan people, also known as the tribes of the Warm Land, live in a reserve area in the Cowichan Valley on the Vancouver Island.

Culture and Traditional Practices

The tribes occupied the region for thousands of years and were successful, to a large extent, in preserving their tradition, culture, heritage, art, and cultural and religious practices. Traditional crafts and practices include dancing, singing, canoe building, carving, and weaving.

Modern Realities and Income

The average annual income of Cowichan households is $20,000. About 75 percent are spent in the reserve area (locally). Given the below average income of many households, there are social assistance programs such as Social Development, which is tasked with administering funds for different target groups. Such target groups are, for example, children and women, students enrolled in Adult Basic and Adult Learning programs, and others. The agency is also responsible for guardian financial assistance and social assistance payments. The Individual Opportunities program also targets community members, and the main goal is to offer opportunities for community referral, employment counselling, workshops on different themes, as well as training and lifelong skill development. Ultimately, the goal of the program is to offer educational opportunities to help people get better chances of finding employment.

Grants, bursaries, and scholarships are also available, for example, the Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre Bursary, English Language Arts Scholarship, and Math/Science Scholarship, among others. The Math/Science Scholarship is offered to science and math students grades 8 to 10. Amounts vary from $100 to $300. Science and math students are welcome to apply for the Ts’ewulhtun Health Centre Student Bursary as well. A total of 10 bursaries are offered, each worth $100. The deadline for some bursaries and scholarships is in June while for others – in November.

Other Sources of Financing

Obvious sources of financing include standard products such as personal loans, mortgages, business loans, and business and personal credit cards. The Mold Program is yet another source of financing for First Nations people. Run as a home rehabilitation program in cooperation with the Bank of Montreal and Jacques Whitford, the goal is to offer assistance for reconstruction and rehabilitation. Measures target abated homes and include activities such as sealing plumbing leaks, repairing exhaust systems, repairing foundation cracks, and more. Regular inspections are scheduled to ensure that reconstruction and repair works meet design and safely standards. The program is financed mainly by the Cowichan tribes (62 percent) and the government (38 percent). Another program offered by the Canadian government is the First Nations On-Reserve Housing program which provides funding to First Nation communities across Canada. Funding is available in all territories and provinces, the only exception being British Columbia. Annual funding allocation is available, meaning that there is no need to apply. Other programs run by the government include the Income Assistance Program, ministerial loan guarantees, and the BC Housing Subsidy Program. Ministerial loan guarantees are used to help obtain loans for the purpose of renovating, purchasing, and building housing on reserves. The Income Assistance Program targets on-reserve individuals to help them meet basic expenses such as rent, utilities, clothing, and food. There are certain exclusions such as furniture, fashionable clothing, and other things that are not considered basic needs.