By Keith Henry, President & CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
Rich with natural beauty and cultural heritage, Canada is a desirable destination for national and international travellers. What better way to explore the country than with unique, memorable experiences that acknowledge Canada’s heritage through Indigenous-owned tourism experiences. Finding authentic and Indigenous-owned tourism experiences is made possible through the work of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC). The purpose of ITAC is to improve the socio-economic situation of Indigenous People within Canada, doing so by ensuring the provisions of Indigenous tourism operators and communities.
It is ITAC’s vision that Canadian tourism enables a thriving Indigenous tourism economy, sharing authentic, memorable and enriching experiences. Through strategic partnerships, community support, and of course, incredible tourism opportunities, Indigenous voices can be amplified. Here are five notable authentic, Indigenous tourism experiences that support Indigenous-owned small businesses across the country.
Become one with nature at Point Grondine Park, featuring 18,000 acres of scenic natural wilderness and old-growth pine forest. This backcountry wilderness park, located outside of Toronto, is ideal for those looking to explore deep within nature, including a wide selection of hiking trails, canoe trips, and backcountry camping. The park is owned and operated by the Wikwemikong Unceded Territory. The operators of the park invite you to reconnect with the land and embrace their rich Anishinaabek culture. Point Grondine promotes its heritage by partnering with an assortment of Indigenous organizations, offering cultural tourism experiences for schools, groups, and families.
As the first Indigenous-owned restaurant in Vancouver, Salmon N Bannock showcases Indigenous culture through delicious food and pride. Founded in 2010 by Remi Caudron and Inez Cook, the restaurant represents a variety of First Nations Peoples including, Long Plain, Maori, Muskoday, Musqueum, Nuxalk, Nuu-chah-nulth, Ojibway, St’at’lmc, Squamish and Ts’msyen. The restaurant is a must-visit experience for foodies, curious minds, and cultural travellers, looking to taste authentic Indigenous cuisine.
The sled dog adventure company, Wapusk Adventures, was opened in 2001 by Dave Daley and his family. Starting with just 10 dogs and a dream, Dave has grown the business into an award-winning company with 38 sled dogs. Being an authentic Indigenous tourism experience, Dave and his dogs as Wapsuk Adventures are one of the few remaining dog sledding teams left in the area. Located in northern Manitoba, Wapusk Adventures attracts thousands of global tourists every year.
Visiting Alberta? Stay at Metis Crossing, a new boutique lodge on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. This lodge invites visitors to discover the rich history of the Métis People in Smoky Lake, Alberta and experience the area’s bountiful wildlife. Guests can experience the wildlife firsthand through the Visions, Hopes and Dreams tour, which features sacred species including white bison and white elk. The lodge was designed as a year-round destination to share the success, beauty, and cultural enthusiasm that Métis Crossing strives to bring to the world.
Located in the heart of Saskatchewan, Wanuskewin Heritage Park works to advance the understanding and appreciation of the evolving cultures of the Northern Plains Indigenous Peoples. Visitors to the heritage site have the opportunity to learn about the ancient petroglyphs recently uncovered by a roaming herd of bison, walk the trails and explore the landscape that’s been continuously inhabited by Plains People for 6,000 years. Guests are welcome to register and participate in cultural programs, tours, dance performances and workshops. The heritage site serves as a living reminder of the peoples’ sacred relationship with the land.
Pirates Haven Chalets and RV Park is an Indigenous-owned park, located directly off the Trans Canada Trailway System. The park offers a wide variety of ATV, bike, and walking trails that allow guests to make the most of the natural Atlantic Canada beauty. Tired adventurists can stay overnight at the chalets and enjoy the luxuries of a hot tub and sauna for sore muscles. The park offers a variety of activities, including fishing and RV camping. The site is based out of the scenic community of Robinson’s, where the land and ocean have catered to the needs of its people throughout history.
Indigenous tourism awaits. If you are interested in learning more about authentic Indigenous tourism experiences in Canada, please visit destinationindigenous.ca.
Keith Henry is the President & CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC). ITAC unites the Indigenous tourism industry in Canada and enables collective support, promotion and marketing of authentic Indigenous cultural tourism businesses in a respectful protocol.