It feels great to stay at a hotel that makes a positive contribution to a community. Not just the typical minimal washing of towels and linens and recycling of newspapers, but a hotel that really makes a difference.
Skwachàys is that kind of hotel. This downtown Vancouver boutique hotel funds shelter-rate apartments for indigenous people who are at risk of homelessness, provides residences and gallery space for urban aboriginal artists, and hotel rooms for indigenous patients coming from remote areas of Canada to receive health care not available in their home community. And it provides 18 hotel rooms for socially-conscious travellers who want to learn more about Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and other indigenous peoples.
Skwachàys is in Vancouver’s Gastown, an up and coming neighbourhood that is too hip for words in some parts, and in others still scruffy around the edges. Each room at Skwachàys (pronounced “skwatch-eyes”) is unique, and was designed by a First Nations artist paired with one of Vancouver’s top hotel interior designers, who donated their services. Most of the rooms’ furnishings were donated too, including the luxurious Hypnos beds (Hypnos hand-makes “the most comfortable beds in the world”, and is the bedmaker of Canada’s and the UK’s royal family).
My room, the Water Suite, was designed by Corrine Hunt who was the co-designer of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic medal. It has riverstones decorating the bed’s headboard, and features the warm tones of natural wood with some pops of red colour. A stylized orca sculpture decorates one wall. We felt cozily at home with a fridge, microwave, safe, coffee maker, kettle, docking station, TV, and great wifi. The room was quite warm, so we were grateful for the big fan. Some Skwachàys rooms welcome pets and some have balconies.
The lobby is also a fair trade gallery featuring the works of local artists. During my visit Garnet Tobacco was in the gallery, and he proudly showed me his paintings and posed beside his painting of two loons.
Traditional indigenous designs are throughout the hotel. On the roof is a traditional west coast longhouse, adorned with a 40-foot dreamweaver totem pole and a 20-foot cascading waterfall (dry during my February visit). There’s also a traditional smudge room and sweat lodge, and guests can learn about the important part they play in Canada’s indigenous culture. In the welcome room, which features a warm fireplace, there’s a large feast table with the Haida three watchmen design, signifying sentinels guarding the village or lodge. It’s in this room that guests can grab their grab-and-go-breakfast (included in rates) to eat in front of the fire, in their room or as they explore Vancouver’s sites.