Vacations this year might look a little different for Canadians. Instead of a trip to Hawaii or Ireland, tourism experts believe travellers will stay close to home — exploring everything this country has to offer.
It’s impossible to talk about Canadian tourism without talking about Indigenous tourism. There are more than 1,900 businesses and 40,000 employees in the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada, contributing almost $2 billion to Canada’s GDP.
To help entice visitors to Indigenous experiences across Canada, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) has launched Destination Indigenous, complete with an online booking platform to make it easy for travellers to find their next adventure.
“We’re providing a one-stop-shop where [travellers] can find the amazing experiences that our Indigenous communities have to offer,” says ITAC president Keith Henry.
Check out our recommendations for some not-to-be-missed Indigenous-led experiences.
Take in a breathtaking sunset view of Lake Okanagan from British Columbia’s first fully Indigenous-owned winery, where the ancient Okanagan Syilx culture merges with the region’s thriving wine scene. Indigenous World Winery’s history is rooted in a people who have lived in this region for millennia. Robert Louie, former chief of the Westbank First Nation, developed the concept for the winery with his wife, Bernice, in 2011. The couple share a strong passion for nature, the land, and the rich history and traditions of the Syilx people.
Step into the Great Hall and instantly feel amazed by towering spindles, longhouse posts and grand canoes as your heart beats in time to drumming and a traditional welcome song performed by the Coastal Mountain Squamish (Skwxu7mesh Úxumixw) and Lil’wat (L’il’wat7úl) people in Whistler, B.C. Explore the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre’s museum treasures: exquisitely crafted masks, tools, instruments and clothing both ancient and contemporary.
Join Indigenous guides in the heart of the Canadian Rocky Mountains to discover ancient survival skills. In summer see the boreal forest through the eyes of your Cree guide or in the winter, snowshoe the trails of Métis ancestors.
Known to some as the “Shining Mountains” or the “Backbone of the World,” to Joe Urie, a Métis guide and owner of the Jasper Tour Company, the Canadian Rocky Mountains are simply “home.” Urie comes from a long line of proud Métis who have been living and guiding along the Athabasca River since 1860. When out exploring with Urie, expect to encounter animals such as deer, moose, black bears, wolves, marmots, pikas, eagles, grizzlies, and elk.
From the Wanuskewin Heritage Park centre, cross the grassy plain and peer over the cliff into the lush Opimihaw Creek Valley below. Close your eyes, feel the wind. It’s not hard to imagine this rich ecosystem as a magnet for the nomadic peoples of the northern plains who, for over 6,000 years, came here to hunt bison, collect food and medicinal plants and escape that prairie wind. The site, which holds spiritual significance, is also home to an ancient medicine wheel.
Why wait for the Aurora Borealis to arrive in the sky above when you can join “Joe the Aurora Hunter” and track them down?
Armed with weather, wind and cloud reports, he offers the unique adventure of driving remote roadways outside Yellowknife in search of Mother Nature’s breathtaking, swirling displays of multi-coloured northern lights. Along the way, there’s also plenty of time to chat about Indigenous life, customs and nature in the Northwest Territories.