Baby boomers are now joining international travellers in exploring the province's aboriginal-based attractions
By Ted Davis
This is, in no small part, fuelled by the drive to kick-start the aboriginal tourism sector into high gear as the 2010 Olympics approaches. Assembled and organized under the Aboriginal Tourism BC banner, these first nations enterprises are growing in economic strength and numbers.
For instance, there are about 200 aboriginal-owned and operated tourism companies throughout B.C. at present, and at least another 65 new tourism products are in the works, says ATBC.
"It is our aboriginal tourism blueprint strategy that really sets us apart from others around the world," says Brenda Baptiste, an executive with ATBC. "We initially based our strategy on the Australia and New Zealand aboriginal tourism models, but now they sometimes turn to us for advice. We are probably the most organized aboriginal tourism body in the world."
It's not easy to find benefits in the legacy of the residential school system that was imposed on Canada's aboriginal population. But the aboriginal operators of the St. Eugene Golf Resort and Casino have managed to do just that, converting an abandoned mission school near Cranbrook/Kimberley into a high-end resort property.
Haida Heritage Centre
As one of the world's top repositories of ancient aboriginal cultural relics, the Queen Charlotte Islands--better known by some as Haida Gwaii--are nearly without peer. Now, a new cultural interpretive centre has been built to lend important context and historical background to the first nations antiquities at Haida Gwaii, within the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve.
Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre
For visitors to Whistler and the Sea to Sky Corridor, it is too easy to forget that these were once the lands in which the Squamish and Lil'wat first nations lived, worked and developed a rich coast mountain culture. Tourists will now get a wonderful new reminder of that at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, which is located adjacent to the Four Seasons Resort Whistler and Fairmont Chateau Whistler, just steps from Whistler village.
Mascot Gold Mine Tours
Rising nearly straight up from the lush floor of the Similkameen Valley in south central B.C. are the walls of rock above the tiny town of Hedley. Clinging to that rock face some 1,000 metres up is the small wooden building at the mouth of once productive Mascot Mine--now the site of one of B.C.'s most innovative aboriginal attractions.
North America's first aboriginal-owned and operated winery receives fruit from some of the oldest vines in the Okanagan, originally planted in 1968. This maturity has resulted in more than 50 international wine awards for Nk'Mip Cellars since opening in 2002.