Like so many Canadians, I've been saddened by the news of the children found buried on residential school grounds across Canada. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't understand the depth of the residential school system. I didn't understand the devastation it has had and continues to have on the Indigenous Peoples of Canada.
There were no residential schools in New Brunswick where I grew up. We certainly didn't learn about it in school. Despite being well-educated and well-travelled, I don't know the history and horror of Canada's Indigenous Peoples even though I've taken advantage of living on their land my entire life. For that, I feel ashamed ... not just for myself, but for all of us.
The good news is we can all make a difference by learning about the past, listening to how this has affected generations and making a commitment to take action going forward.
I am reading articles and social media posts from Indigenous communities. I’ve followed Indigenous tourism companies and spokespeople from various Indigenous communities to better hear their struggles, their successes and their voices.
I’m in the process of taking steps to better understand how deeply our actions have affected and damaged the culture of Indigenous Peoples here in Canada. I am just starting to understand how deeply Indigenous culture has been changed, stifled, hidden and ignored by all of us for so long.
How tourism can help
If you are struggling with what you can do to help in a tangible way, consider supporting Indigenous communities when you travel both in Canada and abroad. Sadly it will not fix the atrocities that have happened in the past and are continuing to take place. It will not fix the ongoing pain of Indigenous Peoples. However, tourism can be a force for good. It can have a positive and lasting impact on Indigenous communities now and in the future.
Four ways supporting Indigenous Tourism makes a real difference
- Supporting Indigenous tourism teaches you Canadian history from a different perspective; one that was never taught in schools. Being willing to listen causes a shift in perspective that can lead to a greater understanding of the struggles Indigenous Peoples face. It leads to better communication, progression toward removing racism and toward reconciliation.
- Indigenous Peoples have a special connection with Mother Earth. They take great care to make sure their tourism businesses are protecting and conserving the earth for future generations. We could all stand to learn a lesson (or many) from the great caretakers of this land.
- Putting your tourism dollars directly in the hands of Indigenous tour operators supports their livelihood, as well as their community. From spending more money in their community to supporting local initiatives, they are making a difference and educating those who are non-Indigenous.
- When Indigenous Peoples create a business, they create job opportunities for others. They regularly hire other Indigenous businesses and staff. This could range from construction of buildings, hotel staff, nature or culture guides, graphic designers, web designers, or assisting with conservation projects, just to name a few. One small business can employ many, but even more importantly, a successful Indigenous business owner is a role model. They can inspire youth to further their education, strive for excellence, become business owners and better leaders for tomorrow.
Let’s do our part to support these businesses and to appreciate their beautiful culture. Let’s listen without prejudice. Let’s appreciate their stewardship of the earth that we all live on. Let’s use tourism as a force for positive change every chance we get.
Resources for learning more about Indigenous Peoples in Canada
Here are a few great resources you may not know about where you can start to learn more about Indigenous Peoples in Canada. Many organizations have ways you can get involved through fundraising or volunteering, others are focused on better education and ensuring correct information is distributed. It is our responsibility to listen, learn and take positive steps forward.
Native Land Map - Learn whose land you are settled on.
Native Land Community & Blog - Learn why all of this is so important.
On Canada Project - Settlers Take Action - Education, empowerment and resources mainly for Millenials and Gen Z.
Halifax Indigenous Services - Learn about Halifax's commitment to reconciliation
Please take time to visit Indigenous Tourism Canada to learn about the truly unique experiences we have right here at home. Whether you are travelling within Canada or abroad, I welcome the opportunity to discuss options for adding Indigenous Tourism experiences to your vacation for a culturally diverse learning experience that will have a positive effect far beyond the dollars you spend.