For an authentic and eye-opening trip in Alberta with kids, Indigenous travel experiences are far more likely to go beyond the landscapes and activities. They offer the opportunity for everyone to learn the largely untold history of Canada. Indigenous tourism often goes hand in hand with sustainable tourism, as Indigenous peoples have walked and traveled this land for thousands of years. They are the most well-versed in how best to preserve and share it.
Even if you grew up in Canada as I did, the history of Canada is largely based on the European settlers who came to Canada just a few hundred years ago. But when you book an Indigenous tour, not only do you get the local flora and fauna and highlights of the place, but you get the storytelling of the place, and the Indigenous experiences that are still there.
Below, you will find 5 compelling reasons to share Indigenous experiences in Canada with our children.
1. To share the vibrant and thriving culture of Indigneous Peoples of Canada
Indigenous, Métis, and Inuit people who work to promote Indigenous Tourism across Canada are generally passionate about sharing their vibrant culture, stories, and past. Some of the best tour guides are born out of a passion to share that knowledge and history. Indigenous history is largely oral history and storytelling is how knowledge is kept and shared.
One example is Joe Urie from Jasper Tour Company. He crafted his narrative around things that would interest my son and keep him moving the whole trip! He taught him about bears and that they are faster in the 100m dash than Usain Bolt, and how, if you need to use bear spray, you need to wait until that bear is less than 10m away! EEEK! he also had an array of antlers and horns and taught both of us the differences between the two. As we drove and walked, Joe told us about the landscapes around Jasper, the Indigenous names for places, and also the stories behind the names. There was so much information being passed on in such an engaging way!
2. To recognize that we are settlers on a land who has had people on it for thousands of years
When I went to school (in the 1990s and 2000s), even in University, the Canadian history that was taught was centered around the Fur Trade. This goes back as far as about 1600s but really nothing before that. There were pieces of colonialism, French and English conquests, and then a bit about Métis culture. But there was nothing that predated European settlers coming to what was known as Turtle Island.
When you spend time with Indigenous, Métis or Inuit guides, the storytelling so vastly different than what is taught in mainstream education. I mean, it is changing in the schools now, and my children do learn a lot about Indigenous culture. When we met with Keith Diaiw from Talking Rock Tours, his extensive knowledge about geology shows and tells a lot about what is found under the ground that we walk.
Keith showed us, how just outside of Edmonton’s downtown, you can easily see the layers of history (over 10 000 years of it !), right on the riverbed. I am sure that few Edmontonians have ever really discovered what is right under their feet.
3. To see another perspective, one generally in sidelines of our daily lives.
History is all around us. Not just buildings, but the natural history of the land. Whether it is the story of how Maligne Lake was named because it was thought to be “wicked” (since it is actually a river and it runs dry each year) or how a now-famous mountain, Mount Edith Cavell, used to be known by a different name by those who saw it for years before the British nurse it was named after, was even born.
When taking a tour like this, I suggest you spend time really listening, and you will find that not everyone sees things from the same perspective that you do. As a child, a teen and even an adult, it was incomprehensible to me that other people living in Canada could have experiences that were and are so vastly different than my own experience. As I listen more and more, I find myself understanding just a tiny piece of their experiences leading to a very different perspective that I take on others.
4. To Embrace the storytelling and the storytelling that is synonymous with Indigenous Oral history.
Each Indigenous, Métis, or Inuit guide takes a unique approach and tells a captivating story specific to the land. Every person had a different passion, for Joe Urie in Jasper, it was sharing the local animals and the stories of the land around Jasper. For Keith Diakiw, his stories focus on earth science, and his passion for geology and telling Indigenous stories came through as he spoke.
Lindsay Nieminen hails from Vancouver, Canada and shares her love of travel on this website. She is passionate about showing others that they should not put off traveling the world just because they have young children or are single parents. She aims to encourage them to seek out adventure, whether it is at home or abroad by providing information on how just about everywhere can be a destination to explore as a family.