Since 2006, June has been a dedicated month in Canada to celebrate the histories of Indigenous peoples, and June 21, the summer solstice, was chosen in 1996 as the official date of National Indigenous Peoples Day. Though Victoria’s annual Indigenous Cultural Festival had been cancelled this year to respect COVID guidelines, Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC) has offered a host of alternative online methods to honour Indigenous culture—both during June and beyond.
As local travel options slowly open up, ITBC has developed an Indigenous BC trip planner app to make responsible local travel easier. The app helps users find up-to-date information on Indigenous-owned businesses and experiences along their travel routes, and offers a customary itinerary-planning feature. It also provides educational tools to deepen travellers’ understanding of the land: language lessons and audio clips of histories, stories, songs, and legends from Indigenous culture.
It’s recommended that travellers visiting remote Indigenous communities educate themselves on the culture for the best experience on both sides, and this is even more so in the context of COVID, which can be particularly harmful to remote communities. To spread knowledge, ITBC has compiled a list of things to consider and do while travelling responsibly to Indigenous communities.
Along with the app, the ITBC has compiled a list of bookable experiences and virtual vacations that explore Indigenous culture in BC, as well as an overarching list of Indigenous travel tours and experiences across BC.
To help educate oneself, ITBC also recommends online tools like First Voices—a user-friendly and kid-friendly website that provides educational material on the various languages and communication systems from Indigenous communities across the country. For parents, these resources offer Indigenous perspectives on topics from the current BC curriculum.
While education is one step forward, empathy can also fill in the gaps of understanding; Indigenous-made art, film, and literature amplify stories and histories in the context of human emotion. The National Film board’s online collection of Indigenous cinema holds over 200 titles that can be streamed for free, while Indigenous books can be found using the hashtag #IndigenousReads on social media platforms.
While National Indigenous Peoples Day is a day of celebration, the effort to learn and respect the complex cultures of Canada’s Indigenous communities can extend far beyond a single day.
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