Sleeping in a Teepee along the Fraser River

Posted on December 5, 2013

By STEVE MACNAULL

(BOSTON BAR) – Cross another one off the bucket list.

My daughter and I have just slept in a teepee at Tuckkwiowhum Village beside the thundering Fraser River near Boston Bar, British Columbia.

To say it was rustic is an understatement.

All that was between us and the Fraser Canyon wilderness (black bears and bobcats come to mind) is a flimsy white piece of canvas stretched over leaning sticks in that unmistakable teepee shape.

1277509_544859452230032_1330677491_oTeepees at Tuckkwiowhum Village. Photo taken from the Tuckkwiowhum Village and Gift Shop Facebook Page.

Inside the 16 foot tall, 16-foot diameter Aboriginal structure is a patch of lawn where we’re expected to set up our measly camping equipment.

We are not camping people.

So my 11-year-old daughter Grace and I have shown up with the best we could scrounge up at home – a sleeping bag Grace uses for sleepovers, a couple of fleecy blankets (one had pictures of puppies on it) and a pair of nearly-flat pillows. My wife didn’t want us taking the good (read: fluffy) pillows camping.

Anyways, set up in the teepee we feel special and at one with nature.

After all, the teepee is an iconic Aboriginal symbol and sleeping in one will be a talking point for both of us for years to come. The roughing it only goes so far because there are indoor washrooms and hot showers.

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Food cache at Tuckkwiowhum Village. Photo taken from the Tuckkwiowhum Village and Gift Shop Facebook Page.

Now time for dinner.

We haven’t brought any food with us.

Our camping skills certainly do not extend to preparing a meal over an open fire, or even a barbecue for that matter.

At Tuckkwiowhum’s small on site restaurant, jack-of-all-trades Richard McIntrye is rustling up an authentic Aboriginal feast for us.

There’s salad with local greens; beef barley soup; roasted potatoes, onions and beets grown in soil just up the road; pan-fried Sockeye salmon caught by a member of the Boston Bar First Nation; and a dessert of Saskatoon berries picked on the mountains we can see out the window.

By the way, the main course salmon pairs nicely with a chilled glass of Peller Estates Pinot Grigio from the Okanagan.

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Tuckkwiowhum Village General Manager Richard McIntyre. Photo by Steve MacNaull

Over dinner McIntrye, who has a Scottish last name, but is from the nearby Lytton First Nation, adds to the information he first started to give us on an earlier tour of the village.

Tuckkwiowhum (pronounced Tuck-we-ohm) means “great berry picking place” in the Nlaka’pamux language.

There has been an Aboriginal settlement on this prime site along the Fraser River for up to 3,000 years and the Boston Bar First Nation wanted to highlight that with a tourist attraction.

The replica village is a step back in time with a centrepiece pithouse, summer lodges, salmon processing station, drying racks, earth ovens, smoke house, summer and winter food caches, sweat lodge, carving shed and pictographs.

Then the other half of the site is a new long house that doubles as a community hall and the campground with 16 teepees that sleep four people each.

And this is where the shock comes in.

Teepees are the traditional home of Indian bands on the Prairies where buffalo skins were plentiful to create the unique-shaped all weather tent.

The Nlaka’pamux people, who are B.C. Interior Salish, favoured the earthen pithouse for winter and cedar-stripped summer lodges that are shaped somewhat like a teepee.

“Teepees are what everyone associates with Aboriginals,” said McIntyre, whose official title at the village is general and marketing manager.

“It’s what tourists expect, so we put them up and explain later.”

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Teepees at Tuckkwiowhum Village. Taken from the Tuckkwiowhum Village and Gift Shop Facebook Page.

Same goes for the totem poles scattered about the property. They are traditionally affiliated with Coastal Salish, but have popped up at Tuckkwiowhum because it’s what tourists are seeking.

Creating such a unique experience means the tourists are coming – mostly from the Fraser Valley, Vancouver and Okanagan, but also from Germany and Switzerland – where people are even more fascinated by Aboriginal culture.

Corporate groups are also booking for the brag-worthy overnights in a teepee and teambuilding activities from salmon smoking and talking stick circles to pow wows and relaxation in the sweat house.

Referrals also come through group marketing efforts from other attractions in the Fraser Canyon such as Hell’s Gate Airtram, Fraser River Raft Expeditions, Kumsheen Rafting and Lytton Visitors Centre.

Tuckkwiowhum Village is located beside the Boston Bar First Nation-owned Anderson Creek RV Park and Campground for regular tent camping and water and power hook ups for RVs.

Overnight rates for a teepee are $65 and dinner is $13.

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Aboriginal dancer in full regalia. Photo courtesy of Tuckkwiowhum Village.

If you are interested in learning about more Aboriginal accommodations, click here to find Aboriginal hospitality listings.


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