By Remy Scalza
"There's this age-old notion that aboriginal culture has to be locked into a style from the 1700s," says Chris Scott, chief operating officer of the Osoyoos Indian Band Development Corp. "Aboriginal tourism shouldn't have to fall into that Hiawatha-Pocahontas image."
Numbering fewer than 500 members, the Osoyoos--or NK'Mip in their traditional language--enjoy a heady distinction among Canada's tribes: They have more or less single-handedly rewritten the book on aboriginal tourism.
The sprawling Osoyoos reservation is a four-hour drive east of Vancouver. Along the way, the scenic route plunges from alpine peaks and glacial valleys down to Canada's only desert, a shimmering landscape of canyons, silvery lakes and tumbleweeds. Led for the last 25 years by a charismatic chief who is equal parts impresario and messiah, the Osoyoos operate 11 different businesses here, including an 18-hole championship golf course. But easily their largest and most lucrative venture is NK'Mip Resort, Canada's first and only aboriginal tourism mega-complex.
The artwork below is nice, but I doubt it has anything to do with traditional Osoyoos in British Columbia. It's one thing to update your aboriginal culture for the 21st century. It's another to present stereotypical images from across the continent as representative of your culture.
For more on the subject, see Rebranding Natives at 2010 Olympics and Aboriginal Tourism in British Columbia.