Three ways to explore Canada through Indigenous storytelling
Storytelling is at the heart of countless Indigenous travel experiences across Canada, helping visitors to better understand Indigenous histories, cultures and ways of life.
“It is such a powerful tool for helping communities in this era of reconciliation,” says Keith Henry, who is Métis and President and CEO of the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada.
Henry says storytelling has a significant role in Indigenous communities, with oral histories integral to many First Nations’ traditional cultures. Sharing community histories, cultural practices and ways of life all happened through storytelling.
Henry has watched Elders and Indigenous hosts beam with pride as they tell their stories to a rapt audience of non-Indigenous visitors.
Such shared stories have a positive impact on everyone involved. “It’s incredibly culturally powerful to see,” Henry says.
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After all, there was a time in Canada when it was forbidden for First Nations Peoples and communities to practice their culture, under government law that aimed to assimilate people into non-Indigenous society.
“Now people are actually wanting to hear those stories, and they’re being shared from an Indigenous perspective. It’s completely invaluable. It’s really bringing back and reinforcing culture for so many nations,” Henry says.
With Indigenous histories long left out of history books, Henry sees an exciting opportunity for visitors to listen and learn about the past through stories told by Indigenous Peoples.
“We’re now telling the true history and story of the land and the people in a really positive and educational way,” he says.
Here are three opportunities for travelers to explore local landscapes while immersing themselves in the stories and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples.
Share food and stories on the red clay beach
Off the northwest coast of Prince Edward Island lies Lennox Island, a 540-hectare isle home to the Lennox Island First Nation. Before colonization, the Mi’kmaq lived all over the Maritimes, traveling where food and resources were.
Tales of that storied past — and this resilient community’s future — are at the centre of numerous authentic experiences the community offers.
Take part in a bannock and clams in the sand experience, led by traditional teachers and storytellers. On the island’s beautiful red clay beaches, you’ll cook traditional bread called bannock, and gather clams. As the food is cooking, the stories of traditional life on Lennox Island will captivate you.
Trace traditional trails with Indigenous knowledge keepers
Travel the ancestral paths of the Secwépemc or Shuswap Peoples in B.C. with journeys led by Indigenous knowledge keepers. Tour operator Moccasin Trails believes that to truly learn about Indigenous culture, you need to touch, smell, see, hear and feel it. To that end, their multiple tours in Kamloops and Kelowna offer opportunities to taste traditional food, sing songs and hear stories and legends passed down through generations.
In Kamloops, the Coyote “Sek’lép” Tour is a guided walk on the land that leads you to a unique balancing rock. Your guide will share the stories of the landmark, located on the shores of scenic Kamloops Lake. For the more adventurous traveler, hear the history of the Shuswap peoples and traditional songs on a guided canoe trip along the South Thompson Rivers, where eagles and hawks soar above.
Be welcomed into a family home in the wilderness
Immerse yourself in the great outdoors of Yukon at Shakat Tun Wilderness Camp. Located on the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, about three hours north of Whitehorse, the Allen family will welcome you into their beautiful home and traditions, including crafts like making medicine bags and fishing expeditions to Christmas Bay and Kluane Lake.
Shakat Tun means summer hunting trails in the Southern Tutchone language, and summer, with its midnight sun, is the time to visit. The wilderness camp sits on the edge of Kluane National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and offers three-day, two-night packages designed for visitors who want to learn about First Nations culture, spend time outside and connect with nature. Participate in numerous cultural activities, from a trapline tour or fishing excursion to workshops where you can make dream catchers, medicine bags or drums.
Explore scenic trails around the camp on your own or take a guided hike to learn about the First Peoples of this area. More stories are shared each evening over a campfire, before visitors head off to their own cabins, each with spectacular views of Kluane Lake and the surrounding mountains.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.