Skwachays Lodge, Vancouver, BC

Opened in 2012 the Skwachays Lodge is a fair trade gallery, boutique hotel and an urban Aboriginal artist residence. It is owned and operated by the Vancouver Native Housing Society.  The Lodge was named in a traditional ceremony by Chief Ian Campbell, the Hereditary Chief of the Squamish Nation on whose territory the Lodge was built.

What makes this development unique it that all profits go directly to Vancouver Native Housing Society (VNHS), the non-profit owner. VNHS is the largest Aboriginal non-profit housing provider on the British Columbia mainland. Their mandate is to provide safe, secure and affordable housing to the Aboriginal community. This is a social enterprise meaning, it’s an organization that applies commercial strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders. Over the years the Society’s mandate has grown to include other marginalized populations in Metro Vancouver, including: seniors and youth, women at risk, persons living with mental health issues, the homeless and those at risk of homelessness. Acting as a non-profit reduces VNHS’s dependence on government subsidies and private donations while enabling it to continue its mandate of providing safe, secure and affordable housing to Vancouver’s urban Aboriginal population.

The top three floors contain 18 boutique hotel units for socially responsible travelers and Aboriginal patients travelling to Vancouver from remote areas to receive medical treatment. The lodge offers visitors a unique and authentic Aboriginal cultural experience. Each one of the 18 hotel suites is an art installation. The design of the event and gathering rooms, like their welcoming room, also reflect Aboriginal culture.  At street level, the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery showcases Aboriginal artistic and cultural work. Other distinguishing features of the building include a rooftop sweat lodge and smudge room used for spiritual cleansing, studio/workshop production space, and a commercial kitchen.

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