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With 48 First Nations and 22 Métis Districts, Alberta is home to a rich tapestry of cultures, languages and ways of knowing that vary from place to place. Yet visitors to the province may not realize the breadth of unique Indigenous tourism offerings scattered across Alberta’s many regions.

Indigenous tourism provides an approachable and fun way to learn about Indigenous cultures and their connection to the land. Many available offerings provide a firsthand look at Indigenous art, languages, storytelling, and opportunities to try traditional activities like archery, horseback riding, crafting, and cooking. 

Authentic Indigenous-owned-and-operated visitor experiences are vital to the tourism industry's recovery. One in two Albertans are interested in Indigenous Tourism, and one in three international visitors want Indigenous experiences when they travel. Investing in these quality visitor experiences and promoting them to the world will help differentiate Alberta’s peoples and cultures while recapturing critical international markets. Before the pandemic, Indigenous tourism was one of Canada’s and Alberta’s fastest-growing tourism niche sectors, contributing roughly $1.7 billion in direct economic impact.

Indigenous tourism is also an essential tool in reconciliation; a thriving visitor economy creates sustainable, year-round income for families and communities. However, Indigenous tourism provides more than just economic benefits. According to Mackenzie Brown-Kamamak, Director of Industry Development at Indigenous Tourism Alberta, a prosperous visitor economy in Indigenous communities can also support:

  • Enhanced community health and wellbeing
  • Cultural revitalization
  • Tradition and language preservation
  • Sustainable development and revitalization of the ecosystem

Indigenous Tourism Alberta currently has 206 registered members and is working to grow that number by supporting new businesses and entrepreneurs through development, advocacy, marketing, and partnerships with organizations like Travel Alberta. They define an Indigenous tourism business or organization as being at least 51% owned and operated by Indigenous people. 


People can’t underestimate what tourism truly means to our operators. It’s not just a business. A lot of our operators say they’re driven by a desire to leave the world a better place for the next seven generations.

Mackenzie Brown-Kamamak, Indigenous Tourism Alberta

Painted Warriors Ranch

Set in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains on Treaty 7 territory, Painted Warriors Ranch invites guests to reconnect with the outdoors through an Indigenous lens. They preserve and teach land-based skills, including animal identification/tracking, snowshoeing, horse riding and archery, while fostering a respect for the land, animals, and one another. Their glamping packages offer nights under the stars in canvas tents, connecting first-hand with stories and practices rooted in Cree, Mohawk, and Salteaux cultures.

“When a group visits, it’s not us (the instructors) and them (the guests). We build a community – anytime people come for an experience, they are 100% immersed in it. They are completely immersed in our world," says owner/operator Tracey Klettl.

 To help enhance and grow the visitor experience, Painted Warriors received funding through the Tourism Investment Program to develop a new guest-check-in building on their property. The newly completed development will offer the following benefits:

  • Increased capacity for tour groups and visitors
  • More accessibility for guests with impaired mobility
  • A place to display and sell Indigenous art and craftwork
  • An enhanced experience and first impression for visitors to the site, fostering a sense of welcoming community as soon as they step through the doors
A bow and arrow is pointed at buffalo-shaped target at Painted Warriors Ranch in Alberta.
Archery is one of the many activities available for guests at Painted Warriors.

Pei Pei Chei Ow

Pei Pei Chei Ow (pronounced “pe-pe-s-chew”) is a food and education company based in Treaty 6 territory, founded by Scott Jonathan Iserhoff. They offer takeout and regular pop-up events out of the WhiskeyJack Art House, an Indigenous-owned-and-operated gallery and boutique that supports Indigenous arts, artisans, and cultural experiences.

For visitors, Iserhoff’s online cooking classes provide a unique way to learn about Indigenous culture and politics through food. The menus include seasonal, regional ingredients that reflect sustainable hunter/gatherer traditions.

In 2021, Pei Pei Chei Ow received funding support from Travel Alberta to purchase a set of mobile, outdoor cooking equipment to deliver a variety of Indigenous culinary experiences across the province. The company partnered with The Royal Alberta Museum to pilot a culinary guest experience that pairs with the museum exhibits, adding context to the history through traditional food.

Pei Pei Chei Ow explores and highlights Indigenous food in today’s society, aiming to evoke memories and comfort. Image courtesy of Pei Pei Chei Ow website.

Willow Ridge Ranch

Willow Ridge Ranch is a working farm overlooking the Jumping Pound Creek south of Cochrane, on Treaty 7 territory. They act as valued stewards of the land, prioritizing fresh, locally cultivated food and meaningful outdoor experiences. The development includes a farm-fresh market and regular beekeeping demonstrations.

Later this year, Willow Ridge Ranch will open The Croft, a new 1850-square-foot private barn dwelling and event space with stunning Rocky Mountain views. The Croft will provide a year-round, expanded visitor experience for more guests to enjoy the area’s pristine environment. Travel Alberta provided growth funding through the tourism investment program to support this initiative.

It's no coincidence that the visitor experience at Willow Ridge also reflects sustainability values. Indigenous cultures commonly reflect an appreciation and connection to the land, an awareness that we are one with the environment. And as traveller demands continue to shift over time, there will be greater demand for these authentic, ethical and sustainable visitor experiences. According to Virtuoso’s 2021 sustainability survey, more than 80 per cent of respondents in Canada and the U.S. indicated that the pandemic has made them want to travel more responsibly.

Through mindfulness and quiet observation, guests experience the opening and workings of the hive. Participants get the opportunity to handle a drone and taste some farm fresh honey straight from the frame. Image courtesy of Willow Ridge website.

Growth through collaboration

While the industry has come far, growing Alberta’s visitor economy requires an all-hands-on-deck approach. And the best way to foster collective engagement? Relationship building. Partnerships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses and organizations will help attract those high-value travellers required to grow Alberta’s visitor economy.

"As Indigenous people, we believe in collaboration over competition. We have a word in Cree, tawâw, meaning welcome. But, more than that, it means that there is room for everyone—space for everybody," says Brown. "When we’re helping one another, we all win."


To develop Indigenous tourism in Alberta, we have to work together. Alberta is already knocking it out of the park because we’re working together to tell these stories to the world. To grow the industry, we’ll need to partner as much as possible. It’s not just about Indigenous tourism. It’s all of us.

Tracey Klettl, Painted Warriors

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