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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

A night in a B.C. teepee

It's a great sleep and it feels like home

Posted: 10/5/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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Being inept campers, we're both enthralled and appalled to be sleeping in a teepee.

First of all, if we're going to overnight in what is essentially a cone-shaped tent, it might as well be the instantly recognizable aboriginal teepee.

But our family is not camping people.

So my 11-year-old daughter Grace and I have shown up at Tuckkwiowhum Village beside the thundering Fraser River near Boston Bar with meagre camping equipment.

There's a flimsy sleeping bag Grace uses for sleepovers, a couple of fleecy blankets (one has graphics of puppies on it) and a pair of nearly-flat pillows.

My wife, who declined to accompany us in favour of electricity and home comforts, didn't want us taking the good (read: fluffy) pillows camping.

To say teepee camping is rustic is an understatement.

All that is 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.

Inside the 4.8-metre tall, 4.8-metre diameter structure is a patch of lawn where we're expected to turn our measly supplies into bedding.

So we set up and all of a sudden feel special and at one with nature.

When it comes time for lights-out (or flashlights-out in this case), we have an incredible 81/2 hours of shut-eye.

As Tuckkwiowhum general manager Richard McIntyre says: "People love the sleep in the teepee."

The roughing it goes only so far because there are indoor washrooms and hot showers.

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 McIntyre is rustling up an authentic aboriginal feast for us.

There's salad with local greens, 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.

Over dinner McIntyre, who has a Scottish last name but is from 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's 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 pit house, summer lodges, salmon processing station, drying racks, earth ovens, smokehouse, summer and winter food caches, sweat lodge, carving shed and pictographs.

The other half of the site is a new longhouse 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 pit house for winter and cedar-stripped summer lodges shaped somewhat like a teepee.

"Teepees are what everyone associates with aboriginals," said McIntyre, who's also marketing manager.

"It's what tourists expect, so we put them up and explain later."

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 team-building activities from salmon-smoking and talking-stick circles to powwows 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 hookups for RVs.

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

Check out Tuckkwiowhum.com or call 604-860-9610.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 5, 2013 E1

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