2012- Come visit the Bridge River Fishing Grounds, the past and current fishing area of the St’át’imc People. At the Xwísten Experience Tours, visitors are invited to learn about the traditional wind-dried method of preserving the salmon still used by its people today. Tourists can also take part in a tour of an extensive archaeological site that contains over eighty s7ístken (pit houses) - the traditional winter homes of the St’át’imc people. You are welcome to explore a s7ístken on site! To complete the tour, visitors can partake in a salmon BBQ, complete with salmon, rice, salad, and bannock. Dessert is a traditional dish of sxúsum (whipped berries).
During the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, the 12,000 residents in Lillooet and Bridge River suffered the effects of substantial job loss after the closing of a local sawmill that had been providing jobs to 400 people with over eighty years of operation in the communities. In Bridge River, a community of only 200, ten jobs were lost, increasing the unemployment rate by ten per cent. It was clear to residents that they needed to take action to develop and diversify their local economy, and that cultural tourism would offer immediate job creation with a focus on long-term sustainability.
In 2009, the Bridge River Indian Band secured substantial funding from Northern Development on behalf of the Government of Canada through Canada's Economic Action Plan. This funding was invested in significant improvements to the Xwísten Tourism Experiences' fishing rocks, winter village, and pit house impressions tourism amenities.
"Xwísten Experience Tours has been evolving over ten years and is growing. Our unique tourism product provides an opportunity for our community to showcase our traditional fishing site and our archeological site to the world. Northern Development funding has made it possible for us to develop our sites and signage to showcase our tours. Without this funding, we would not have been able to improve our sites and accomplish our goals. It has greatly improved our ability to provide a market-ready product."
Bradley Jack, Administrator, Bridge River Indian Band
Positive Economic Impacts in Bridge River
The extensive improvements undertaken with this project to these important tourism attractions in Bridge River have been successful in diversifying the community's economy and developing the local tourism industry. At a time where employment was greatly needed, the project also provided much needed jobs to Bridge River community members.
By expanding product offerings to tourists, the band has able to triple the amount of visitors to the site each year since the project was completed. In doing so, twelve new seasonal jobs have been added for community members in addition to the sixty temporary employment positions that were generated directly during the construction and renovations phases of the project.
Bridge River Indian Band have reported that revenues doubled in the second year after the improvements took place, and local businesses such as restaurants, shops, and hotels, in both Bridge River and Lillooet have been reporting positive economic spinoff benefits due to the increased visitors that have been drawn to the communities.
By taking action during difficult economic times, the Bridge River Indian Band was able to create employment for community members and a lasting tourism asset that continues on, welcoming visitors each year to engage with Xwísten Tourism Experiences and St’át’imc culture first hand.