Canada’s First Nation culture is rich in story-telling and their stories link communities deeply and intensely with Canada's incredible landscapes.
Some of these stories have already made their way onto the tourism market told in tours and museums, in ceremonies, dance and art, offering visitors an authentic way to connect with ancient ways of living. But there are other stories in the First Nation community that are neither as poetic nor as pretty and these are stories that have been told to Canada's painful truth and reconciliation commission too. The commission has heard harrowing stories of wrongs done to indigenous people in the name of progress as Europeans arrived, settled among them and then tried to change the traditional culture and ways in the mistaken belief that their ways were better.
It's a sad story, as European diseases wiped out many tribes and religious do-gooders took aboriginal children from their families and taught them to deny their language and their culture. It's a story of treaties ignored and damage done and the commission recently concluded that past native policies had resulted in a 'cultural genocide'. Now however, Canada is doing much to face up to this ugly past and address it with a national apology and initiatives redressing past wrongs, boosting aboriginal education and developing employment opportunities.
So it was heartening and exciting for the tourism industry that this year’s Rendezvous Canada was the very first to see a serious contingent of 17 First Nation tour operators. Led by Keith Henry, himself from the First Nation community, the 17 are part of the 80-strong Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada which has spent the last five years working with indigenous people to develop professional good quality tourism product ‘export ready’ and capable of meeting the needs of international travellers with codes of practise and reliability standards required by those established tour operators they'll need to make their businesses a success.
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