REVISITING CANADA’S BREATHTAKING NATIONAL PARKS WITH INDIGENOUS PEOPLE
The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) is encouraging tourists to visit Indigenous communities and rediscover its iconic national parks through an Indigenous lens.
Parks Canada and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada have a four-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) which recognises the role that Indigenous People have in protecting the historic sites, national parks and marine conservation areas, and it encourages the sharing of stories that inhabit these treasured places.
“We are so fortunate to live in a vast and ecologically diverse country,” said Keith Henry, ITAC President and CEO. “Our protected parklands hold a millennia of Indigenous history, waiting to be told.”
Canada’s well-known parks saw 25 million visitors per year prior to the pandemic. Below are some of the many places where visitors can take Indigenous-led tours to understand the significance they hold through Indigenous perspectives.
Examples of Canada’s Indigenous experiences include:
In the Canadian Rocky Mountains, Mahikan Trails offers guided tours in Banff National Park such as a medicine walk where guides identify flora and fauna and their healing properties. Visitors can learn how to mountain hike with Indigenous-owned Girth Hitch Guiding where climbers can also become educated on the history of the Cascade Ponds.
Located three hours north-west of Banff is Jasper, Alberta, where travellers might encounter the Warrior Women, a duo offering performance shows, workshops, tour shows, guided experiences, training and much more. Jasper Tour Company is an Indigenous-led tour company run by Joe and Patti Urie. Joe himself takes guests along a number of tours, offering his lived experience as a Métis person.
By venturing outside of Ontario’s urban destinations, travellers can find bountiful untouched land and beautiful scenery. In Tobermory, the Bruce Peninsula National Park is known for its beautiful limescale cliffs, caves, and waterfront. Cape Croker Park is both a campground and a provider of Indigenous cultural experiences that educate travellers on the rich history of the Anishinaabe People. The Anishinaabe People existed in this area before it was known as Bruce Peninsula. Visitors can hear stories that have been passed down through generations.
Forillon National Park was the first national park in Quebec, known for its colourful underwater plants and wildlife, including its colonies of birds, whales and seals. Gesgapegiag is one of three First Nations communities on the South Shore of the Gaspésie, most of whom of Mi’kmaq ancestry. Exploring the area with Tourisme Gesgapegiag offers tours to the Mawiomi grounds, home to cultural events and Micmac art. Visitors can also enjoy some freshly caught jagej (lobster) in the newly expanded Gesgapegiag Lobster Hut.
Near Forillon National Park is Gaspé, home to the Gespeg Interpretation Site. The history of this community began in the 16th century when the Gespeg Mi’gmac settled in Gaspé Bay, getting its name from the Mi’gmac word “gespeg,” which translates to “where the earth ends.” Live the Mi’gmac experience by getting in touch with the Interpretation Site.
Another popular destination in Canada is Gros Morne National Park, in Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland. Tourists admire the red landscape, caused by tectonic shifts and exposure of the earth’s mantle. Three tour companies propose to teach travellers about the first people that lived there: Wild Gros Morne, Gros Morne Adventures and Under the Stump. It looks like a travel back in time to truly understand how the first people in Canada thrived in the northernmost province.
Kluane National Park and Reserve, located in Canada’s Yukon territory, is part of the traditional territory of the Southern Tutchone people. For thousands of years, this land has been home to Indigenous people who hunted and gathered for sustenance. Shakat Tun Wilderness Camp is the gateway into local Indigenous peoples. Getting its name from the Southern Tutchone language, “Shakat tun” means summer hunting trails. Local tour operators organise tailored two-night stay or larger group stays.