Our friends over at the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) have put together a list of Indigenous travel experiences that we’re keen to both highlight, and take part in. Please take note of the myriad of ways that you can connect to Indigenous culture in Canada in the near future!
Indigenous tourism experiences are one of the fastest growing tourism sectors in Canada, and with very good reason. Quite frankly, it’s about time that we put more eyes on the remarkable array of indigenous travel experiences across this nation.
Below, we’re going to highlight some of the experiences that you may want to consider, but it’s also worth mentioning that you can take a peek at all that is on offer by visiting Destination Indigenous. We want to note here that the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada has made a point of mentioning that they “respect the decisions and guidelines of our Indigenous communities and their leadership. Visitation to certain areas may be restricted, please check to make sure that your intended destination is welcoming visitors.”
What is the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada?
We want to share their description of themselves below.
“The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) is a national non-profit Indigenous tourism industry organization established in 2015. ITAC is the lead organization tasked with growing and promoting the Indigenous tourism industry across the country.
Inspired by a vision for a thriving Indigenous tourism economy sharing authentic, memorable and enriching experiences, ITAC develops relationships with groups and regions with similar mandates to enable collective support, product development, promotion and marketing of authentic Indigenous tourism businesses in a respectful protocol.”
What is Indigenous Tourism?
In short, the term applies to all tourism businesses majority-owned, operated or controlled by First Nations, Métis or Inuit Peoples. The businesses are expected to demonstrate a connection and responsibility to the local indigenous community as well as the traditional territory where the operation resides.
Another term that is uses is “Indigenous Cultural Tourism.” That term is used when the tourism experience incorporates and highlights Indigenous culture in an appropriate, respectful and true manner. The authenticity of said experiences are ensured by the active involvement of Indigenous peoples.
As they note, “Authentic Indigenous Cultural Tourism is by Indigenous People, not about Indigenous People.”
22 Canadian Indigenous Travel Experiences to Have On Your Radar
There’s a wide variety of Indigenous travel experiences that we’ll highlight based on ITAC’s recent PR release. These feature new accommodations, programming that you may want to take part in, as well as immersive experiences.
First, we’ll briefly note that again that “there are also unique challenges and considerations for Indigenous communities and businesses when deciding how and when to open to visitors. Be sure to check the status of each business for all measures, including road closures, before travelling using the ITAC map and enquiry directly.
- Stay in the new 40-room boutique lodge on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River and discover the rich history of the Métis People in Smoky Lake, Alberta. Visitors to Métis Crossing can also tour the new wildlife park called Visions, Hopes and Dreams at Métis Crossing, which features sacred species including white bison and white elk.
- Celebrate Indigenous culture at Madahoki Farms – the new home for a series of seasonal celebrations and the brick and mortar location of the Indigenous Marketplace. The farm recently provided refuge to four Ojibway spirit horses, the only existing breed of horse developed by Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
- Feast on the ‘Best World Cuisine” at Kūkŭm Kitchen, soon to re-open in Toronto. Chef Joseph Shawana, the force behind the high-end Indigenous restaurant, will also be introducing a new Indigenous food festival in Toronto in the summer of 2022.
- Learn about the ancient petroglyphs recently uncovered by a roaming herd of bison at the newly expanded Wanuskewin Heritage Park in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Walk the new trails and explore the landscape that’s been continuously inhabited by Plains People for 6,000 years.
- Spot whales and grizzly bears while learning about the Indigenous culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw People, who have resided in the islands off of Campbell River, British Columbia since time immemorial. Coastal Rainforest Safaris will expand its day-trip offerings with the opening of a cultural wilderness camp in 2022.
- Discover Nibiischii, meaning “Land of Water,” a breathtaking wildlife preserve of boreal forests, lakes and rivers near Mistissini, Québec. Managed by the Cree Nation, anglers and adventurers can stay in campsites, floating cabins or at a prospector’s camp.
- Explore Songees culture in Victoria, British Columbia. Sample a salmon bannock burger from the food truck, purchase traditional or contemporary art or take a walking or canoe tour with a Songhees cultural guide.
- Listen to legends of the Cree People with Warrior Women, mother and daughter duo Matricia and Mackenzie Brown in Jasper, Alberta. Experiences include a plant medicine walk (virtual or in-person) and a fireside chat. Visit their new online store for handmade mittens, moccasins and artwork.
- Witness a traditional Pow Wow this summer; a celebration of community spirit through song, dance and cultural foods with the people of Three Fires Confederacy on Wikwiimekong Unceded Territory on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. Celebrating 61 years since the revitalization of their culture, the community offers a variety of tourism experiences and recently launched an online gift shop.
- Promote healing at Aurora Village, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. While the NWT is closed to visitors, Aurora village has transformed into a wellness centre that uses Dene values and traditions to help guests heal from traumatic experiences including residential schools or the Sixties Scoop.
- Make a custom Mi’kmaq basket, experience a smudging ceremony or explore an authentically constructed wigwam, longhouse and sweatlodge at Elsipogtog Mi’kmaq Cultural Center, New Brunswick.
- Visit the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation in Bute Inlet with Homalco Wildlife and Cultural Tours. The 20-year-old company is opening the new Homalco Adventure Centre in Campbell River, launching two new tour vessels and introducing a new Whales, Wildlife and Culture tour.
- Located on 160 acres of pristine wilderness on the Kikino Metis Settlement in Northern Alberta, Hideaway Adventure Grounds has officially evolved from a campsite to a wilderness retreat with a variety of Indigenous education and awareness packages. New packages include things like plant knowledge, Indigenous life skills and leather creations. Hideaway Adventure Grounds offers Metis trapper tent camping as well as self-contained camping areas.
- Craft an igloo in Arctic Bay, Nunavut and discover the skills it takes to make a home out of snow and ice with Inuit People. Learn how to travel across the landscape by dogsled, catch fish and get to know your Inuit hosts at Arctic Bay Adventures.
- Indulge in sweet treats that showcase Indigenous ingredients from Canada and the world. Chef Tammy Maki of Raven Rising, Global Indigenous Chocolates and Pastry, uses flavours including Ontario bergamot, haskap berries, alder catkin, elderberry, wild rice, butternut, and hickory to create edible art.
- Ride across the traditional territories of the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation with a stay at Big Bar Guest Ranch. Traditional Indigenous experiences are interwoven with the day-to-day ranch life of a wrangler at this ranch located in Clinton British Columbia.
- Step into traditionally crafted mukluks and moccasins by the artisans at Atikkus Hopeboots. The company from the Innu community of Uashat Mak Mani-utenam, won Company of the Year at the Indigenous Tourism Québec awards.
- Retrace the canoe routes of the Anishnaabek People with Wikwemikong Tourism in Point Grondine Park, Manitoulin Island. Multi-day tours include Indigenous meals, traditional storytelling and lodging in Killarney Mountain Lodge.
- Revel in the creative spirit of the Yukon First Nations People at the 2022 Adäka Cultural Festival, June 30 to July 7 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, Whitehorse. Take part in hands-on workshops exploring skills including wood and antler carving, painting, beading, moose hair tufting, knife and birch bark basket making.
- Walk in nature while learning about the rich and vibrant culture of the Anishinaabek People at Cape Croker Park in Southern Ontario. New programming includes fire making, wilderness skills and guided hikes where visitors can learn about traditional plants or spot wildlife signs.
- Paddle the rivers near Kelowna and Kamloops, British Columbia with Moccasin Trails and explore the traditional territory of the Syilx and Shuswap People with a local Knowledge Keeper. Spend a couple of hours in a voyager-style canoe and discover how the people of the interior have thrived in this landscape and developed a strong connection to the water and land.
- Connect with nature while travelling by canoe along the waterways of the Saskatchewan River Delta, near Cumberland House, Saskatchewan. Aski Holistic Adventures provides a variety of opportunities to get out on the land and learn about the land with a Cree/Métis guide.
Please note that you can visit the respective sites linked above to inquire about booking, but you can also do so directly through Destination Indigenous.
Christopher Mitchell is a Co-founder of We Explore Canada. He’s visited over 80 countries and has lived on 4 continents, but now has his eyes set squarely on exploring this incredible country and helping others do the same.