Travel Alberta Last Ten Series
This year marks Travel Alberta’s 10th anniversary as a Crown corporation, and we want to commemorate Team Alberta’s collective successes over the last 10 years and beyond by highlighting your accomplishments and what you’ve learned to take your business or organization to the next level! Share your stories with us by email, Twitter or LinkedIn.
Brenda Holder, who is Cree and Iroquois, is known in Indigenous circles as a knowledge keeper of Traditional Medicines–a person who understands Indigenous cultural traditions. It’s a role she embraced to build a successful business.
“My biggest achievement is in staying the course as an Indigenous tourism business, and I have been able to really thrive despite being ahead of my time. I held on knowing that the industry would begin to become more and more interested in Indigenous experiences.”
Holder is an Interpretive Guide at Mahikan Trails in Canmore. Since opening in 2000, she has seen the business grow over the years.
Every day Holder shares the Indigenous culture to guests through a variety of experiences and activities such as Plant Medicine Walks, crafts and snowshoeing.
Holder’s Medicine Walk workshops wow guests when they learn about the many wildflowers and trees that Indigenous people have used for centuries. They are used for everything from getting over the flu to making jewelry or fashioning a base for a bed that keeps insects away.
Over the years, Mahikan Trails has added both winter and summer medicine walks. Holder has found ways to enhance the workshops to give guests the opportunity to get even more involved.
“I have always done very hands on experiences, but now we are incorporating more such as opportunities for clients to literally taste the forest with rose, mushroom and marshmallow (the plant) hot chocolate or have them experience how we determine what a plant has for medicine, by allowing them to taste and touch. And finally, by engaging elders more, I am now able to share a lot more on my medicine walks.”
Holder has triumphed in hard times. During 2013 flood, many of the trails were not accessible and visitors were not even able to get into Canmore. Afterwards she used the teachings passed down about natural forces and taught guests about respect for land and nature.
“When things smoothed out so to speak, I was able to really use that to my advantage and talk from an Indigenous perspective, especially the flood.”
Holder says that Mahikan Trails is busier than ever and excited for what the future holds!
“I believe people have become even more aware of Indigenous tourism and are even more interested.”
In December 2018, Travel Alberta signed a three-partnership agreement to support Indigenous Tourism Alberta’s promotional strategies with a mix of financial investment and business development and marketing expertise.