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Indigenous Peoples, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, have traditionally inhabited the land we call Alberta for generations. Today, there are 48 First Nations and 22 Métis (Otipemisiwak)  districts across the province. Through Indigenous tourism, entrepreneurs and communities share their ways of life and rich cultures with visitors from Alberta and around the world. 

Indigenous tourism operators fill many different roles, from guides and knowledge keepers to artists and chefs. They represent many different Indigenous nations and have plenty of incredible experiences to share with those who wish to learn more about the richness and diversity of Indigenous cultures found here. 

For non-Indigenous tourism operators, there are many ways to build authentic partnerships with Indigenous communities. By learning from and engaging with local communities, it is possible to build long-term, reciprocal partnerships that celebrate the unique cultures and ways of life that make this place so special.   


Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations move at the speed of trust.

Brenda Holder, Mahikan Trails

Terry Goertzen is a proud member of The Red River Métis of Manitoba and Travel Alberta’s Vice President of Economic Development and Indigenous Relations. We asked him some questions about partnering with Indigenous Peoples and respectfully amplifying their cultures through tourism – keep reading to learn more.  

How can Indigenous and non-Indigenous tourism businesses partner to make attractive itineraries? 

“Build a relationship. Building relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous partners is foundational to working with Indigenous Peoples. Non-Indigenous partners need to meet with Indigenous operators and communities to experience and learn their cultures before engaging on business. Experiencing the cultures firsthand provides a new understanding for non-Indigenous tourism operators and can guide how best to partner with local and provincial Indigenous Peoples.”  

Through their partnership, the OneSpot Crossing Campground and Elevated Escapes Glamping company offer year-round glamping accommodations and cultural programming. David and Ginger Onespot, owners/operators of the Onespot Crossing Campground, became connected with Jenna Walsh, owner/operator of Elevated Escapes, when Jenna visited the family's campground. She introduced herself, and the group built a relationship over time before entering a business partnership.

How can non-Indigenous tourism employers make their business more welcoming to Indigenous employees and patrons? 


“Through greetings and signage. One of the simple ways to partner and engage with Indigenous Peoples respectfully is through greetings and signage. Before you meet with Indigenous Peoples, learn the greeting of their culture, such as hello and goodbye. To create an accepting and respectful space, provide welcoming signage in the appropriate local Indigenous language. 

When gathering, at a meeting or at an event, make sure to include a personalized land acknowledgment to set a tone of respect and understanding. Take the time to learn about cultural protocols before meeting – the offering of tobacco or creating space for a smudge can help start things in a good way.” 

Moonstone Creation, located in Calgary, sells a wide range of items for gifting and other protocols, including smudge materials, sweetgrass, and tobacco.

How can tourism businesses incorporate Indigenous culture into their tourism business? 


“Leverage Indigenous resources. To ensure incorporating Indigenous culture into your workplace is authentic, your learnings need to be rooted in actual partnership with Indigenous Peoples. Engage with Indigenous Tourism of Alberta (ITA) to learn how to respectfully collaborate with local Indigenous Peoples and amplify their stories, if and when it makes sense. 

Secondly, depending on the location of the business, consult with the local First Nation or Métis community. For Indigenous tourism to be authentic, it needs to have a real partnership with Indigenous Peoples. This could even include a memorandum of understanding or a revenue sharing agreement – it depends on the level of partnership and collaboration."

Brenda Holder from Mahikan Trails observed at a recent ITA gathering that Indigenous and non-Indigenous relations "move at the speed of trust". Given the history of many years of broken promises and cultural appropriation, it is important for non-Indigenous operators to take time to build that trust over time. 


In 2023, Travel Alberta and Indigenous Tourism Alberta signed a Memorandum of Understanding and expanded funding agreement. This partnership, built on collaboration and trust, empowers Indigenous Tourism Alberta to take the lead when engaging with communities and operators. It has enabled Travel Alberta to make meaningful strides in developing Indigenous tourism, while ensuring that Indigenous Peoples tell their own stories and reap the benefits of the visitor economy on a community level.

For more information and resources on building relationships in the Indigenous tourism space, read Indigenous Tourism Alberta’s toolkit:

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