by Emily Dobby
Recent events have finally sparked a nation-wide conversation around reconciliation and social change. Many of us are looking for ways to engage and learn more about Canada’s Indigenous communities. According to one Indigenous-owned and operated non-profit in B.C., Indigenous tourism could be a key element.
“Indigenous tourism is one of the highest forms of community sovereignty,” says Brenda Baptiste, Chair of Indigenous Tourism BC. “Each community makes a decision about what aspects of their culture that they want to protect and what they are willing to share with visitors. Once a community identifies the cultural components that they want to share with visitors, then the teaching begins.”
The organization sets a precedent for how Indigenous tourism should be run nationally. Out of the 600 Indigenous communities within Canada, more than 200 communities are located within B.C. Visitors in the province are able to experience a variety of Indigenous experiences.
“The interior cultures are very different from the coastal cultures,” she says. “Youth and traditional knowledge keepers learn from each other about culture, history, lands, language and ceremony. This creates a foundation for reconciliation and cultural revitalization within the community, which leaves a legacy for future generations.”
Historically, Indigenous people have a history and value of hosting that dates back to the rich culture of their ancestry. Visitors engage with the nuanced and beautiful stories of their ancestors.
“Through their experiences, our visitors learn the beauty and complexity of Indigenous history, and we encourage them to explore their world through our Indigenous lens and way of being,” Baptiste says.
With travel restrictions easing, visitors will soon again be welcomed into these communities. Up on the North Island, you can visit U’mista Cultural Centre, Culture Shock, Sea Wolf Adventures, Cluxewe Resort, Coastal Rainforest Safaris, Kwa’lilas Hotel.
“It is remarkable how these experiences change a person’s view of B.C., Canada and the world. This is one of the best ways to understand and embrace reconciliation.”
To explore Indigenous experiences and check out what’s open: https://www.indigenousbc.com/stay-local-support-indigenousbc/