… an authentic artform shares living culture at Quaaout Lodge
Storytelling is a beautiful art form. The sharing of stories, and the way their words, images, and emotions weave together, is a beautiful way to connect with others. Sometimes, stories serve to share information or impart knowledge; at other times, they serve simply to entertain and provide some well-deserved relaxation. We connect through stories to learn about a people or a culture and to preserve historical traditions. We also use them to teach our children valuable life lessons and the importance of knowing right from wrong. They conjure memories and incite inner reflection, often bringing comfort and understanding. They are valuable in many important ways. I see myself as a storyteller; therefore, I love using stories to connect with my children, my peers, and, of course, with those who read my words. Connection is at the core of it, and vital to my way of life. Also important to many, myself included, is a connection to the natural world. And I love that storytelling is a way to teach my children about their environment and the power it holds to heal us, empower us, and help us grow and thrive.
A recent visit to the Quaaout Lodge and Spa at the Talking Rock Resort in Chase, BC, offered a wonderful opportunity for my family and me to explore the natural setting of land, forest, and lake while indulging in the rich stories of its unique heritage and age-old culture.
Quaaout means “when the sun’s rays first touch the land” in the local Secwepemc language, and the name is fitting. As we walked along the beachfront and down the dock, the sun was peeking through the clouds, an invitation to relax awhile and enjoy the calm and warmth it provided.
Quaaout, known as a wellness and retreat destination, had invited me (and my family members) “to arrive as a guest and leave as a friend” with the simple ask that we treat the land, and the people, with respect. This resonated with me. I’m always happy to make new friends—and Quaaout didn’t disappoint.
The story behind Quaaout is as beautiful as the place itself. It was first conceived by the Little Shuswap Lake band members in 1979 to boost economic development and provide jobs. In addition to these practical aspects, Quaaout also became a place of beautiful stories, storytelling, and connection—a way to embrace the simple and sustainable lifestyles of those who first called this land home.
The grand opening took place in 1992, and the 18-hole championship golf course, completed later, in 2007, was named “Talking Rock” in recognition of the band’s ancestors who painted and carved pictographs on large rocks to record and preserve their history. The name itself was an homage to storytelling and its history with the Indigenous people of Little Shuswap.
The people at Quaaout have a remarkable way of making you feel at home. There’s a casualness about the place, a lack of pretension that I appreciate—and if you care to listen, they’re happy to tell you a story or two about Quaaout. The same can be said for Chef Chris Whittaker, the head chef at Jack Sam’s, the on-site restaurant at Quaaout.
Whittaker himself is a storyteller and shares knowledge of the local farmers, foragers, and artisans through the food he serves in his restaurant. A respected and experienced chef, Whittaker was looking for a new challenge in an environment that would support his need to connect more deeply with his family and community, so he contacted Quaaout.
He moved his family here three years ago, immersed himself in his role as Quaaout’s new chef, and has never looked back. “As a child, I gained a deep respect for nature and the outdoors, and I use these philosophies for inspiration and creativity,” says Whittaker.
His menu is seasonal, featuring meats, cheeses, vegetables, wines, beer, and more, procured from nearby artisans. This local focus allows Whittaker to “indulge his culinary creativity while pouring more than a quarter of a million dollars annually into the local community.”
Whittaker is fiercely proud of this, and his food reflects it. Our meals here, enjoyed while surrounded by stunning views of the lake and land, were packed with local flavour and offered a unique abundance of comfort mixed with simple elegance. At Quaaout, they practise the art of storytelling through the food and culture they share with their guests.
While at Quaaout, we met Gordon Tomma, the resident tour guide, cultural interpreter, and on-site conversationalist. I spent hours with Gord while there, chatting about the local history and learning about Indigenous customs. He is deeply connected to the land and the people and was eager to share stories from the past.
On a powerful cultural walk of the local lands, Gord led us to a smudging ceremony during a visit to their on-site kekuli, the traditional winter home of the Secwepemc people.
While seated inside this impressively crafted home, Gord built a fire with my girls and spoke to us softly about how the Indigenous people told stories around the fire to pass the time during the long, cold months of winter.
As we continued our walk, Gord shared many more stories of the Secwepemc people, including those of his own family. Charming and authentic, he talked about his grandmother’s use of tree bark pitch and the many ailments she could heal with this simple yet powerful remedy used often by Indigenous people.
Full of wisdom, Gord reminded us that “our legacy is behind us, but our wisdom is now, that when we merge the two, we are truly blessed.”
Like many, I’ve always valued opportunities to get away for a few days for welcome breaks from the routine. Visiting local destinations during this time of limited travel opportunities due to the pandemic has provided me with a chance to get to know my home province better and to share that knowledge and local culture with my family.
Our time at Quaaout—a mix of culture, cuisine, and calm relaxation—was unexpectedly rewarding, and storytelling was a big part of that.
In addition to the many cultural tours and activities, Quaaout offers a calming environment to just rest. From the spa and golf course to the beach and sand, this place is a gentle reminder that the story of our lives is made better through connection—to the land, to the history, and to one another.
This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of alive.