Aboriginal themed luxury hotel opening in downtown Vancouver

Museums and galleries are great, but for a real taste of First Nations culture in Vancouver how about a night in the Water Suite?

Sculptures of salmon crafted from wood and steel swim above the headboard, while works of aboriginal art hang alongside handwritten lines of poetry inside the suite, part of a brand new hotel experiment in downtown Vancouver.

Visitors interested in learning more about Canada’s First Nations will soon have the option of staying in an entirely aboriginal-themed hotel. Opening in May, the 18-room Skwachays Lodge will be the first example of an “aboriginal boutique arts hotel” in Canada, according to an article by Kevin Griffin in the Vancouver Sun.

Situated on West Pender and Taylor Streets near the edge of Chinatown, the hotel will cater to travellers seeking higher-end accommodation that offers a cultural twist, with rooms going for around $225 a night.  And the aboriginal connection is more than just a marketing ploy.

The new facility is located inside the Vancouver Native Housing Society complex, a $10.5-million structure that was opened in 2012. The bulk of the complex is dedicated to social housing suites. But it was also built with an extensive art gallery and healing lodge, a place for out-of-town First Nations patients to stay while in hospital.

The healing lodge never really took off, however, so the society opted to redevelop the spare rooms into boutique hotel suites.  Developed by a team of six aboriginal artists working with six separate interior design companies, the suites will have entirely different themes, complemented by original pieces of native art. Examples include a room with birch-bark wallpaper that evokes powwow scenes from the Prairies and a room with a round bed under a ceiling decorated to look like the moon, according to the Vancouver Sun.

Plans are also in the works to allow visitors to participate in hands-on First Nations experiences.  Options may include carving, weaving or painting classes where guests are able to take home the works they make. It’s anticipated that significant traffic will come from cruise ship passengers, who stop over in Vancouver and often seek a quick glimpse of native culture.

Aboriginal art will be on display at the Skwachays Lodge. Pictured here: a totem pole in the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. Photo credit: Hendl | Flickr

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