With interprovincial travel and tourism restarting in July, the B.C. government has committed $28 million from its COVID-19 recovery funds to assist Indigenous tourism development in every corner of the province.
The program reaches from the Nisga’a Museum in the Northwest to the Shuswap Trail Alliance in the Interior, the Songhees Nation on Vancouver Island and the Katzie First Nation in the Lower Mainland. With tourism beginning to recover as pandemic gathering and travel restrictions ease, assistance is going to what Tourism Minister Melanie Mark calls a prime area for attracting visitors.
“Indigenous tourism is one of the fastest-growing segments in B.C. tourism because it provides opportunities to share Indigenous cultures and experience communities in a new way,” Mark said June 24. “This funding demonstrates reconciliation in action by creating and expanding tourism economic development projects with Indigenous Nations and supporting self determination for Indigenous businesses.”
Projects and organizations qualified under six separate recovery funds: destination development, unique heritage, rural economic recovery, regional tourism development and tourism dependent communities. Communities receiving funding are Fernie, Grand Forks, Kimberley, Prince Rupert, Sun Peaks, Lillooet and Powell River.
Among the recipients is the Secwépemc Landmarks project, trails leading to a series of sculpture landmarks that combine the talents of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists, says Shelley Witzky, a councillor with the Adams Lake Band.
“The Secwépemc Landmarks project is a collaboration, in the spirit of reconciliation, that aims to raise awareness of Secwépemc traditional territory with the installation of landmarks that are situated at key visiting areas throughout the Shuswap Lakes region,” Witzky said. “The markers are modelled after Coyote pillars, natural pillar rock formations that are of cultural significance to the Secwépemc Nation.
“Secwépemc artists will construct the rock base of the sculpture, symbolizing the Secwépemc presence and connection to land, and the non-Secwépemc artists will work on the connected metal artwork, symbolizing working together in a spirit of reconciliation, to share the stories, culture and oral history of our land, as shared by our Elders in Adams Lake, Neskonlith, Little Shuswap Lake and Splatsin. We welcome visitors with this art and invite them to learn more about the Secwépemc Nation.”
Indigenous communities are making their own call on when to receive visitors, based on their COVID-19 vaccination levels, health services and other considerations. The province maintains a list of Indigenous attractions that are receiving visitors here.