The Mary Thomas Cultural Centre & Heritage Sanctuary
Consistent with the vision of beloved Secwepemc Elder, Dr. Mary Thomas, the Mary Thomas
Cultural Centre & Heritage Sanctuary is becoming a hub of economic activity within the Shuswap region, benefiting the Neskonlith Indian Band members and the entire Shuswap region. The site is managed by the Switzmalph Cultural Society, which was formed in 2000 with a board of 14 Non-native and First Nations directors to help create a bridge of understanding through initiatives such as this. With stunning natural beauty as a backdrop and extensive indigenous history and active natural systems as a foundation,the Centre will offer an authentic and extensive range of traditional First Nations culture, art, education, and activities for tourists interested in the aboriginal and ecological experience.
Local, national and international visitors will be offered opportunities to experience Secwepemc ceremonies, stories legends, and their deep understanding of the land. Visitors can participate in such activities as eating traditional food, experiencing a sweat lodge, or spending a night in a traditional Secwepemc Village built in the traditional style of the Shuswap people's ancient settlements. Those with a keen interest in Aboriginal arts and crafts can attend workshops to learn how to make a traditional birch bark basket, native drum or traditional bulrush mat.
Guests will also be offered guided interpretive tours through the traditional plant nursery and the trail system in the Salmon River delta where they will learn about traditional plants and medicines as well as traditional sustainable resource management. Our guides and instructors will provide visitors with an intimate knowledge and incomparable insight into local First Nations customs, history and environmental stewardship. Cultural and educational programming will be provided for learners of all ages and backgrounds, providing important life lessons and offering a unique and memorable experience for every guest.
The Neskonlith community members have chosen self-employment as a route to financial independence and economic revitalization for their community. The Switzmalph Cultural Society is ideally positioned to enhance and create the capacity for increased sustainable cultural tourism opportunities, thereby fostering economic diversification and stimulus across the Shuswap region. This will be strengthened by active participation in the Shuswap Tourism Development Plan (March 31, 2010), supported by the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD)/Shuswap Tourism, realizing their goal to ensure our First Nation activities and products are integrated into the regional marketing and visitor services framework, and ensuring visitors receive our marketing publications.
The Cultural Centre
Of further note, once the tourism business strategy is successfully implemented and greater financial independence is established, the future community development plan includes building a conference centre, The Shuswap Centre, Knucwetwecw (helping one another) with the support of the Neskonlith Indian Band. It will be located on already designated band land with a panoramic view of Salmon Arm, the Salmon River delta and the Shuswap Lake that is easily accessible from the Trans Canada Highway.