14,000-year-old tools to light fires, fish hooks and spears are some of the discoveries unearthed on Triquet Island in British Columbia. Anthropologists believe the ancient village 500km north-west of Victoria is older than the pyramids. What’s really exciting is that stories passed down from generation to generation among the First Nations in Canada support this idea.
Among the many wonderful things to do in Canada, First Nations tourism experiences should be part of your itinerary if you truly want to understand the country.
The Heiltsuk First Nation elders say that ancient coastal villages are part of their oral storytelling.
This discovery opens the door to reshaping ideas on how civilisation began in North America.
Experts believe a significant human migration may have occurred on British Columbia’s unfrozen coastline.
British Columbia has a wealth of First Nations cultural and natural treasures. There are over 50 First Nations peoples across 200 communities.
From First Nations ceremonies and traditions to forest walks, fishing and paddling tours, Canada’s First Nations people have a rich collection of stories to tell.
Here are 10 First Nations experiences in Canada that will enrich your visit.
First Nations Tourism
Vancouver and Sunshine Coast
Walk in the footsteps of the Shíshálh First Nation people and learn about this ancient culture from knowledgeable First Nations guides.
The storytellers at Talaysay Tours provide a fascinating introduction to the traditions of British Columbia’s First Nations people.
And walking with a First Nations guide will give you a whole new perspective on Stanley Park.
The North Shore forest hike is an enchanting walk past lush ferns and bubbling brooks.
You’ll learn how the First Nations in Canada harvested plants to use as medicine and food.
The Shíshálh people are part of the larger collective of tribes in Southern British Columbia called the Coast Salish alliance.
Explore their homeland on the Sunshine Coast on a walking tour of Porpoise Bay Provincial Park or go on try their First Nations Interpretive Paddle for a chance to spot seals, otters, sea stars and other sea creatures.
What? Talaysay Tours has half day and full day tours in Vancouver and three-day trips to Kunechin Point and Tzoonie Narrows.
2- Aboriginal Journeys
Campbell River, Vancouver Island
Track grizzly bears and see killer whales, dolphins and eagles in the wild in the traditional territory of the Laichwiltach First Nations people. These are some of the things to do on Vancouver Island.
From Vancouver Island’s Campbell River, the company runs grizzly bear tours to inlets on the mainland.
Bear viewing platforms along the river provide good views to see the bears feasting on spawning salmon.
Orca watching tours cruise around the Discovery Islands and Johnstone Strait.
What? Aboriginal Journeys’ full day grizzly bear watching tours depart daily from August to October. Four and six-hour orca watching trips run from April to August.
If you’re heading to the far side of the island, here are some top Ucluelet accommodation choices and beyond.
For more places to stay while visiting Vancouver Island see this post about camping and RV Parks.
3- Haida Style Expeditions
Haida Style Expeditions makes it easy to explore Haida Gwaii, a remote archipelago off British Columbia’s north coast.
Often called the Canadian Galápagos for its endemic wildlife, the home of the Haida First Nations is a mystical world of islands, water and forests.
Some of the 150 islands are part of the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site.
Visit historic Haida villages, get back to nature on a walk through an ancient forest, watch for wildlife and listen to the myths and legends of the Haida First Nations.
Keen anglers will love the guided salmon and halibut angling expeditions, which includes accommodation, meals, heated vessels and fish processing.
What? Haida Gwaii is a two-hour flight from Vancouver, or you can get there by ferry. Haida Style Expeditions offers a variety of tours in Haida Gwaii.
4- Salmon n’ Bannock Bistro
While in Vancouver, book a table at Salmon n’ Bannock (1128 West Broadway).
From organic meat to wild fish, this First Nations restaurant dishes up a menu of inspired First Nations cuisine prepared with fresh locally sourced ingredients.
Team members come from different First Nations tribes in Canada, such as Nupalk, Haida Gwaii, Blackfoot and Wet’suwet’en.
Fancy some braised free-range bison back ribs? Or birch-glazed wild sockeye salmon? Prices are reasonable (around $35 to $50 a person).
The food is tasty and the restaurant is decorated with art created by upcoming First Nations artists.
What? Salmon n’ Bannock is open for lunch and dinner (Monday to Friday) and dinner on Saturday. Here are more places to visit in Vancouver.
5- Skwachàys Lodge Hotel & Gallery
Skwachàys Lodge Hotel & Gallery is a funky First Nations art hotel named after the sacred springs that once covered the area.
The hotel’s 18 rooms are decorated with First Nations art. The hotel’s artistic flair is reflected in the furniture, paintings, murals, carvings and textiles.
If you’re partial to a little luxury, don’t worry, you won’t go without big city comforts like cable, Wi-Fi and coffee machines in the rooms.
Cultural features include a sweat lodge, smudge room and ceremonial gathering spaces.
At the entrance of the hotel is the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery, which has an eye-catching display of Northwest First Nations art.
What? Skwachàys Lodge Hotel & Gallery is a contemporary boutique hotel in Vancouver that will give you a taste of First Nations culture and art while you sleep.
6- Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort
Experience the healing power of the natural mineral waters at Ainsworth Hot Springs.
Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort is on the traditional lands of the Ktunaxa people.
These hot springs have long been a place for Ktunaxa warriors to soak their wounds in the spirit waters and a place of healing all kinds of ailments.
A stay at Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort includes access to the Hot Springs pools and natural cave. The Spirit Water Spa has a menu of treatments. Try a relaxing and rebalancing massage or a body wrap made from local plants.
What? Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort has a range of rooms and suites. The Ktunaxa Grill serves up modern First Nations cuisine. Other activities are cave tours, white water rafting and fishing trips.
7- Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip Resort
Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley
Indulge in good food and wine in North America’s first Aboriginal winery.
Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip is a 4.5-star resort with a 9-hole, par-35 course, a spa and the Nk’Mip winery right at its doorstep.
The resort is the place for wine tasting, a round or two of golf and spa treatments. The landscape of desert, lakes, mountains and vineyards is soothing to the senses.
Located in the scenic southern Okanagan Valley, near Osoyoos, Nk’Mip is right in the heart of British Columbia’s best wine region. More than half of British Columbia’s 900 plus vineyards and 300 wineries are in the Okanagan Valley.
The resort’s Mica Restaurant serves up a menu of wine country comfort food and, of course, South Okanagan wines.
What? Spirit Ridge at Nk’Mip has one- and two-bedroom villas and suites, Solterra Desert Spa, a casual fine-dining restaurant, outdoor lap pools, private beach and lake access.
8- St Eugene Golf Resort and Casino
Escape to the mountains to this First Nation-owned 4.5-star hotel and casino. And play a round of golf on the par-72 championship golf course.
St Eugene Golf Resort and Casino is in a stunning location between the Purcell and the Rocky Mountains, five minutes from the Canadian Rockies International Airport.
Some of the hotel’s 125 rooms are located within the original Mission-style building.
From the resort, there are spectacular views of the St Mary River, the resort’s golf course, the Purcell Mountains and the Rocky Mountains.
What? St Eugene Golf Resort and Casino is a 4.5-star resort with a casino, several dining options and a health club with steam room, sauna, outdoor heated pool and hot tubs.
9- Xatśūll Heritage Village
Experience the traditions and culture of the Xatśūll community by staying in a pit house and going through a ceremony in a sweat-house.
Dug partially into the ground with the roof covering the hole, a pit house (or kikule house) is the traditional type of home for the Xatśūll.
A Xatśūll sweat house is a place to cleanse body, mind and spirit.
There’s also an option to sleep in a teepee, which is the traditional lodging for other Secwepemc Nation communities.
What? Xatśūll Heritage Village has daily tours and cultural workshops
10- Spirit Bear Lodge
Klemtu, Great Bear Rainforest
Tucked away in a remote archipelago of islands in the heart of the Great Bear Rainforest, Spirit Bear Lodge is owned and run by First Nations people.
British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest is the only place in the world to see Spirit Bears in the wild.
This temperate rainforest is also home to hundreds of other types of wildlife. There are grizzlies, black bears and wolves.
The lodge is in the small Kitasoo/Xai’xais fishing village of Klemtu, around 500km north of Vancouver.
It’s a modern version of a West Coast First Nations traditional longhouse, with soaring windows with ocean views, Tsimshian Art and cedar furniture.
First Nations guides have exclusive access to Spirit Bear viewing areas within the recently created Spirit Bear Conservancy.
What? Spirit Bear Lodge is a wilderness lodge in the heart of British Columbia’s bear country.
While in Vancouver go to:
1- Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art is a boutique museum with impressive sculptures and stunning jewellery.
2- Stanley Park’s totem poles at Brockton Point are cultural, historical and artistic symbols on the traditional lands of the Coast Salish people.
3- University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology has impressive displays of Northwest Coast First Nations arts carvings, weavings and contemporary artworks inside a glass and concrete building.
4- Kia’palano at Capilano Suspension Bridge offers a glimpse into British Columbia’s First Nations people through stories around their totem poles.
For more First Nations travel ideas see Aboriginal Tourism BC