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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Olympic Tourists Descend On Native Sites
by Suzanne Fournier, The Province

Amazing Response To Arts, Crafts

Sales are brisk at these Olympic Games for all things First Nations: cedar carvings, Salish weaving, Kwakwaka'wakw silver and masks, drums and high-end Haida clothing.

With the Four Host First Nations as the first-ever indigenous Olympics co-hosts, intense promotion by Aboriginal Tourism B.C. and strong native themes at almost all Games events, "there is a real buzz in the air," said Sophie Pierre, chair of Aboriginal Tourism B.C.

"Without a doubt, there has been so much interest generated at these Games in aboriginal culture and tourism, we expect very significant economic spinoffs," said Pierre.

"We have members in every corner of the province, so this will benefit all First Nations over the long term," said Pierre.

Training 28 "trailblazers" as Olympic tour guides, who will take their training all over B.C., has made aboriginal youth keen on tourism careers.

Aboriginal cuisine by chefs Andrew George, Arnold Olson and culinary arts instructor Ben Genaille -- from salmon and seafood to Nk'Mip wine and even grilled rattlesnake -- has been featured at parties around the city.

But the benefits to the First Nations presence are not just economic.

"Face-to-face meetings with our people, getting to know our culture, arts and food, has accomplished so much more than constant confrontation," said Tewanee Joseph, the CEO of the Four Host First Nations (FHFN).

"We also see the pride growing in our kids, now they talk about who they are."

Joseph noted that 14,000 people a day visit the FHFN pavilion, with long lineups for Chiefs' House shows and even to get into the store.

More than 2,000 aboriginal people are working at the Games and at least $100 million in long-term economic spinoffs is anticipated, said Joseph.

"Masks have 'sold' signs. Everything's flying off the shelves," said Joseph, but he also noted the "networking" by native-owned businesses.

Lynn and Grant McKay of Vancouver bought a handmade First Nations drum.

"We absolutely loved the native theme at the Opening Ceremonies -- the energy and the power, and it's such a positive image of First Nations," said Lynn McKay.

Down the street at Vancouver Community College, more than 100 aboriginal artisans and businesspeople from all over Canada are doing a brisk trade.

"It's been really great, there's a tonne of traffic and we're taking orders," said Dean Heron, the Tlingit artist who created the Olympic snowboard design.

Inuit art and carving attract a crowd, as do Salish woven blankets by Janice George.

Corinne Hunt, the Kokouye/Tlingit artist who designed the Olympic medals, was amazed by the attention.

"It's been amazing, just way beyond what I believed could be the interest and potential for sales," said Hunt.

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