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Indigenous Tourism

Updated: Feb 6

Indigenous tourism on Vancouver Island takes visitors on an eye-opening journey that leaves them with a heightened understanding of the First Nations' history and the significance of ceremonial gatherings.

In addition to Vancouver Islands breathtaking scenery, the island has a deep relationship to its Indigenous peoples, giving tourists a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to observe centuries-old practices that build a better knowledge of indigenous traditions. Local craftsmen are known for their exceptional artistic skill, making elaborate carvings, magnificent cedar weavings, stunning jewellery embellished with ancient designs. and symbolic totem poles that serve as visual storytelling, preserving ancestral stories and lessons. Totem poles are the most renowned features of Northwest Coast Indigenous art.

On guided tours or visits to Indigenous-owned businesses, visitors can expect an authentic cultural experience where they may participate in a variety of these traditional activities or workshops on carving, weaving, beading, or drum-making.

Outdoor experiences including whale watching, fishing, wildlife viewing, and nature excursions are conducted by Indigenous guides offering unforgettable memories.

First Nations people have a rich culinary heritage reflecting a deep connection to the land with a respect for environmental harmony and sustainability. Their food culture is an integral part of their history, spirituality, and way of life. Elders pass down knowledge about foraging, harvesting, and cooking techniques, ensuring the preservation of traditional culinary practices for future generations.

The preparation and consumption of foods are often tied to cultural practices, pow wows and ceremonies, emphasizing the importance of honoring traditions, community and sharing.

The indigenous diet is a celebration of the island's cornucopia and often revolves around locally sourced ingredients gathered from the forests. A diverse range of traditional foods and cooking techniques are used incorporating them into various dishes and desserts or using them for nutritional benefits and medicinal purposes.

Fresh berries including huckleberries, blueberries, saskatoons, and salal berries, wild herbs, greens and roots are foraged, and a variety of wild game such as elk, deer, moose, rabbit, and ducks are hunted respectfully and sustainably. These meats are utilized in stews, roasts, or dried for preservation, honoring the animal and using all parts for sustenance.

Men fish using nets, weirs, and fish wheels. Traps are used to harvest shellfish, crab, clams, oysters, mussels, and seaweed incorporating them into their traditional dishes.

Salmon holds immense cultural and nutritional significance. For many First Nations communities, salmon are at the center of creation stories, ceremonies, family structures, and cultural identity. It's prepared in various ways, including smoking, drying, or cooking over an open flame.

An unforgettable experience to enjoy is the fireside tradition of plank-wrapped salmon. To prepare, the salmon is secured onto wooden planks of cedar or alder before suspending them vertically over a fiercely raging open campfire. The planks are staked into the ground around the firepit, and the fish is gradually roasted with the smokiness of the cedar incorporating into the fish resulting in a flavorful succulent dish.

Presently, these traditional foods are being rekindled and celebrated by Indigenous restaurants and chefs incorporating them into contemporary cuisine. This culinary revival is raising awareness of Indigenous foodways, all the while preserving heritage and honouring their cultural significance.

Museums and other Houses of Culture:

Several museums and cultural centres on Vancouver Island focus on Indigenous history and culture. These museums and galleries provide exhibitions, demonstrations, and educational events that explore the cultural, artistic, and spiritual practices of the indigenous peoples of the area.

Indigenous peoples' cultural practices must be respected in all circumstances. Eco-friendly tourism as an example helps to protect both cultural and natural sites safeguarding ancestral lands.

Visitors are invited to participate in a respectful manner by asking permission to take pictures, paying close attention during cultural activities, and purchasing original works of Indigenous art to help sustain local craftspeople. By highlighting the perseverance, beauty, and strength of First Nations people, Indigenous tourism on Vancouver Island aims to bridges the gap between the past and the present.

Engage with the local culture and create for yourself an opportunity to learn about each other's traditions to get a deeper appreciation for the rich tapestry of how this beautiful island is woven together.


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