In honour of International Women’s Day on March 8 and this year’s theme of Break the Bias, Indigenous Tourism B.C. is celebrating six women championing Indigenous tourism across the province. Through their contributions in travel, they are challenging stereotypes, preserving their heritage, and creating new economic opportunities for communities, as well as spurring positive change and promoting reconciliation between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous allies. —Vita Daily
teara fraser, founder and ceo, iskwew air. Métis pilot, entrepreneur and hero to many, Teara is a powerhouse leader launching Canada’s first Indigenous woman-founded and led airline, Iskwew Air, in 2019. Iskwew, meaning “woman” in her ancestral Cree language, is Fraser’s celebration of her Indigenous heritage and fundamental belief in the power of gender equity. Her new venture was slow to take flight due to the pandemic stalling travel and tourism. Still, Teara was resilient and pivoted Iskwew Air from carrying passengers to flying essential goods to remote communities. Her mission to connect remote communities with her airline continues today as tourism bookings begin to increase and borders open. Turning heads with her ambition, D.C. Comics included a feature on Teara alongside the likes of Brené Brown and Beyoncé as part of their Wonderful Women in History graphic novel, available in stores now.
brenda baptiste, chair of the board, indigenous tourism bc. Brenda Baptiste has long had a vision and belief tourism can balance socio-economic development for Indigenous people. A member of the Osoyoos Indian Band (OIB), Brenda graduated as a registered nurse specializing in Indigenous health, focusing on community development. She was instrumental in the OIB with the marketing and development of Nk’ mip Desert Cultural Centre. Her passion and vision for building opportunities help guide ITBC‘s strategy today.
sharon bond, owner and ceo/founder of kekuli cafe. Sharon had the vision and tenacity to build a restaurant that embodied an Indigenous atmosphere, ambiance, and food unlike anywhere else. For years she spent evenings, weekends and free time selling the traditional First Nations’ bannock bread from her roadside stand in West Kelowna, B.C., slowly digging herself out of debt in the hopes of getting a loan to start her dream restaurant. Her vision came to fruition when All Nations Trust Company, an Indigenous-owned financial institution, provided her with the loan to develop her restaurant, the Kekuli Cafe, in Westbank, B.C. The cafe breathed new life into the Indigenous culinary scene with traditional Indigenous ambiance, pow wow music, Indigenous art, jewelry and Indigenous cuisine, including her infamous pillowy bannock.
candace campo, owner and operator, talaysay tours. Drawing from her training as an anthropologist and school teacher, Candace, ancestral name xets’emits’a (always be there), started her company Talaysay Tours in 2002. The cultural and eco-tour company provides engaging, educational and authentic Indigenous experiences, including walking tours, outdoor adventures and tea ceremonies in and around Vancouver, Squamish and the Sunshine Coast or online via zoom. While Candace serves as the head guide, storyteller and educator-facilitator, Talaysay Tours has 10 Indigenous guides who lead these experiences.
linda morven, ceo nisga’a village of gitwinksihlkw. The Nisg̱a’a Village of Gitwinksihlkw (formerly Canyon City) is developing its tourism infrastructure to help build an economy, bring people into its community, and work toward supporting entrepreneur development. In collaboration and with the support of her Chief and Council, Linda is a vital part of the movement, being community builders at heart. Recently, the community opened a new Welcome House café and gift shop, and phase one of the Sasaak’s hiking and biking trails during the pandemic. Many initiatives are planned for the smaller northern village, and Morven believes there is no limit to what the community can achieve.
mary point, manager, indigenous relations, vancouver international airport. Mary is passionate about her vision to connect everyone coming to B.C. with an Indigenous experience to educate and inform visitors about her Musqueam culture. Instrumental in key alliances with Indigenous nations and promoting Indigenous Tourism, Mary drove the development of and partnership with YVR Airport and ITBC to host an interactive digital kiosk, so all international departures would have a touchpoint with B.C.’s Indigenous culture. She seamlessly weaves culture and protocol into best practices for those seeking to do business with First Nations individuals and organizations, ensuring partnerships are authentic to Indigenous culture.