You may be gearing up for a new adventure and wondering about all of the things you can do and the places you can explore at your next travel destination. You may have looked up all the recommended restaurants, gardens, parks and other tourist attractions… but how many of these incorporate a cultural tourism experience?
In Canada, and British Columbia in particular, the Aboriginal cultural tourism industry continues to grow. There are more and more sustainable tourism opportunities geared towards educating visitors on local Aboriginal culture and history. There is a push for authentic cultural tourism experiences to help preserve Aboriginal cultural heritage and to ensure economic and sustainable growth of local communities. As a tourist, learning about the local culture and history can broaden your perspective of any place you visit.
Tourists, and even locals, can learn about Aboriginal culture by visiting museums and centres focused on First Nations peoples within the area. They are specially curated to educate visitors about the rich Aboriginal culture and history we have throughout Canada. These spaces offer anything from traditional welcome songs, guided museum walks, to interactive exhibits. The Aboriginal Tourism BC (AtBC) website has a list of their members who focus on preserving Aboriginal cultural heritage, which include:
Apart from museums and cultural centres, another great way to delve in and learn about Aboriginal culture is through authentic cultural tourism experiences. Cultural tourism businesses are either majority owned and/or operated by Aboriginal peoples, or are sustainable tourism businesses that work closely with Aboriginal communities to create authentic cultural experiences. The Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada (ATAC) highlights the need for collaboration, honesty and respect in all areas of cultural tourism; respect not only for Aboriginal peoples but also their traditional territories.
For your next trip seek out websites such as AtBC or Sustainable Tourism which highlight sustainable tourism businesses focused on providing authentic Aboriginal cultural experiences. Some of which include:
They are 100% owned and operated by the Xwisten (Bridge River Indian Band), and as a community business they strive to employ people within their community. They offer fishing tours which teach people about their history and the importance of fish in their culture. Their archaeological village tours show the importance and history of the sites to their people.
Another way to support cultural and green tourism is through local Aboriginal art and souvenirs. However, it is important to look at the authenticity of the arts and crafts you are looking to buy. The AtBC has an initiative called Authentic Indigenous to help consumers find sustianable tourism businesses which support Aboriginal artisans and crafters. The goal of the program is to protect Aboriginal artwork and culture, and to increase awareness among consumers and resellers of the positive community benefits by purchasing authentic Aboriginal arts and crafts. By supporting local artisans, sustainable tourism can help recirculate money back to Aboriginal peoples and ensure the economical and culturally sustainable growth of First Nations communities.
You can find gift shops which are Aboriginal owned and operated, such as:
Another way of supporting Aboriginal artwork is by visiting galleries which display and sell authentic Aboriginal art, such as
So the next time you find yourself on a travelling adventure, be sure to get a dose of cultural experience. Not only will you gain insight on Canada’s rich Aboriginal culture, but you can also support communities to keep their culture and local economies flourishing.