June is National Indigenous History Month, with June 21st designated as National Indigenous Peoples Day, celebrating the heritage, culture and achievements of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis people and communities.
Throughout the month and throughout the country, events will be held, activities enjoyed and the summer solstice celebrated in both contemporary and traditional ways, some dating back thousands of years. While joining in the festivities is a great way to experience and enjoy Indigenous culture, to learn and to show support for their ongoing plight, exploring Indigenous travel experiences across Canada is even better.
Local involvement is important, of course, but one of the best ways of connecting with First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities and understanding their past and current way of life, is to put yourself in their hands, on their land, and to hear about it all in their own words.
Enter Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC), an Indigenous-led, non-profit organization committed to promoting a sustainable Indigenous tourism industry in Canada. Not only are their trips designed to showcase Indigenous culture, they are planned and operated by Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities, making the experience as authentic as possible.
And their timing couldn’t be better.
What can be labelled as ‘meaningful travel’ has been growing globally, including in Canada, for years now. Terms like voluntouring may have been a trend at first, but a quick Google search will show you just how popular trips that benefit others have become. Helping others is only a part of it though, and experiences offered through ITAC are as much about the trip taker as they are about the host.
Below are just some of the culturally-focused adventure holidays currently available through the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada.
A Traditional Village on the Edge of Montreal (4 days)
Running May through October, packages include a car rental and a 2-night teepee stay in a traditional village near Montreal. Enjoy local First Nations guides and daily activities like paddling a traditional canoe. End your trip with a 1-night stay in Montreal at Hotel Le Crystal.
Operated by members of the Innu, Atikamekw, Cree and Anishinabe communities.
Yukon Winter Experience (5 days)
From October to April, Yukon’s winter wonderland comes alive with guided dog-sledding, a glacier flight, a First Nations heritage and cultural tour, art and carving demonstration, and the breathtaking Aurora Borealis around a traditional campfire.
Operated by members of the Champagne, Aishihik and Little Salmon Carmacks First Nations.
Getaway on the Shores of Hudson Bay (3 days)
Available April to September, this northern Manitoba adventure features a 2-night stay at the Aurora Inn, a Metis summer dog-sledding tour, a guided bird-watching boat tour and views of the spectacular Northern Lights.
Operated by Wapusk Adventures.
Winter in Yellowknife (4 days)
November through March, guests learn how to build an Inuit snow house (igloo), tour an ice cave, watch a traditional trapping demonstration and fur display, snowshoe Great Slave Lake, and build a fire inside a teepee, falling asleep to Inuit story-tellers.
Join traditional Aboriginal games like wood sawing, leg wrestling and pole pushing. Create your own mini-drum and take home your own-made souvenir.
Operated by members of the Metis and Inuit communities.
Maritime Experience (5 days)
Year-round packages include flights from Toronto, a 4-day car rental and deluxe accommodations throughout. Enjoy a self-driving adventure through Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, home of the Mi’kmaq.
Talking with Horses is a program teaching not only horse riding but how to communicate with animals through body language. Take a scenic horseback trail ride, stop at the Membertou Heritage Park on Cape Breton Island and visit an Indigenous art studio (Indian Arts & Crafts of North America). A seafood, mussel and lobster boil shore lunch is included.
Operated by Membertou First Nations
There are many out there that would pay a pretty penny to go dog-sledding, and do. Why not choose to do it with a First Nations company? If you want your experience as real as it gets, it’s a no-brainer.
As Canada strives towards Reconciliation with our Indigenous communities, understanding and respect will be key, and tourism could prove instrumental in the endeavour.