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Cultural Connections

Celebrate and honour Indigenous cultures in Canada this summer.

Photos clockwise from top left: Ed Voll; David Gluns; Cyndi Browne; Cyndi Browne; courtesy of Lac La Biche Canadian Native friendship Centre

Before Canada’s skyscrapers were constructed, before the Canadian Pacific Railway was founded, and well before Europeans first set foot here, Indigenous peoples called this land home.

Today, tourism companies led by Canada’s Indigenous peoples are shining a light on the fascinating history and culture of First Nations and Metis communities across the nation. Merging traditional values with innovative experiences, these companies offer authentic ways to honour the country’s original peoples.

If you’re looking for a way to celebrate National Indigenous History Month, or are thinking about which Indigenous-led experiences to enjoy this summer, here are just a few to consider.


Revel in a rejuvenating stay at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort

Ktunaxa Grill at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort. / Photo by David Gluns

Located in British Columbia’s West Kootenays, the Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort sits on the traditional land of the Ktunaxa Nation. Indeed, it was the Ktunaxa people who first visited the area’s therapeutic springs, embracing the healing properties of the mineral-rich waters after long days of hunting, fishing and gathering.

Today, you, too, can enjoy these same healing properties with a stay at the resort, which was purchased by the Yaqan Nukiy Band (members of the Ktunaxa Nation) in 2015. Revel in the view from the property’s outdoor pool as you  look out over the picturesque Kootenay Lake and Purcell Mountains. Or opt for a swim through the natural, horseshoe-shaped cave, for an authentic hot springs experience.

After you’ve worked up an appetite, pay a visit to the Ktunaxa Grill, where you’ll savour the restaurant’s Indigenous-inspired and regionally sourced food — think bannock and dips, smoked elk carpaccio and wild sockeye salmon. Delicious.


Book a wildlife tour with Sea Wolf Adventures

Wildlife viewing with Sea Wolf Adventures. / Photo by Ed Voll

Experience the rugged wilderness around Northern Vancouver Island and the Great Bear Rainforest with a Sea Wolf Adventures tour. The Musgamakw Dzawada’enuxw-owned tour company out of Port McNeil offers a variety of immersive wildlife-viewing experiences, helping you get up close(but not too close) to some of the West Coast’s most magnificent animals, including grizzly bears and whales.

You’ll also get an educational and cultural experience you won’t forget. All of Sea Wolf Adventures’ guides are First Nations, so you’ll likely come away with insights into their deep connections to the land and water as they take you through their people’s traditional territories.


Surround yourself with Indigenous art and design at the Kwa’lilas Hotel

The Kwa’lilas Hotel, constructed with local cedar. / Photo by Cyndi Browne

The luxurious Kwa’lilas Hotel in Port Hardy is located on Northern Vancouver Island, on the traditional land of the Kwakiutl people. The name of the four-star property means “a place to sleep,” and was chosen by Elders in the hopes that travellers would find relaxation here after their day out enjoying the area’s wealth of outdoor activities.

A reflection of Indigenous aesthetics and values, the hotel was constructed with local cedar, and its design resembles a traditional big house, with large beams and a smoke-hole in the roof. A selection of authentic Indigenous artwork can be found in each of the 85 guest rooms, as well as in the 150-person meeting space, lobby, and restaurant and pub.

Kwa’lilas Hotel also offers a variety of hands-on experiences. Find out more about traditional culture by joining in a drum-making or cedar-weaving session.


Embark on one of the many Indigenous-led experiences available in Alberta

Comfort tipi camping in Lac La Biche. / Photo by Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre

Indigenous Tourism Alberta (ITA) is an Indigenous-led, non-profit organization that works to grow Indigenous tourism in the province. With its support, there are more than 125 thriving Indigenous-owned tourism businesses in Alberta. Whether you’re looking to book authentic accommodation, learn more about Indigenous culture, or embark on an outdoor adventure led by a guide with an ancestral connection to the land, you’ll find it through ITA. This summer, take a Mahikan Trails herbal medicine walk in the Rocky Mountains, experience a canoe tour at Métis Crossing or meet with knowledgeable Siksika Elders during a stay at the River Ranche Lodge (in the Canadian Badlands). No matter where you go in Alberta, opportunities for inspiring adventures abound.

This content was supplied by the advertiser for commercial purposes. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of WestJet Magazine staff.