Take a walk through a meadow or a forest with Brenda Holder or one of the other Indigenous guides with Mahikan Trails and you will learn to identify plants that are used in traditional medicines. You will also learn to spot animal tracks and how the Cree people survived in the rugged Canadian Rockies for thousands of years. Holder is the owner of Mahikan Trails – “Mahikan” is the Cree word for “wolf” – and a proud member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Holder is also of the Kwarakwante lineage of Jasper and a Knowledge Keeper of Traditional Medicine. She is passionate about sharing the knowledge and culture that has been passed down from her family through generations.
We interviewed Holder about how her business evolved during the pandemic, and her hopes for the future of tourism in Alberta.
How did your business evolve during the pandemic? What changes or new aspects to your business will you take with you moving forward?
My business began to explore online experiences in virtual medicine walks, workshops, and talks. We also began to do a lot of YouTube videos and they were fantastic. This feels wonderful to me and, in addition to the in-person opportunities, I feel I will continue to do all of the online sessions and videos. I am thrilled with the ability to meet so many new people!
We know that health and safety is top of mind for everyone right now. How is your business preparing to give visitors peace of mind as restrictions ease?
For my business, we are fortunate that we can do everything outdoors, so it is easier to socially distance. We will encourage people to continue to follow COVID-19 protocols and policies with masks, handwashing, sanitizing, mandatory health check forms, and encourage cohort bookings as much as possible.
What is the most valuable part of Alberta’s tourism industry?
To me, the most valuable part of Alberta’s tourism Industry lies in the people who are delivering tourism experiences. In that, I mean even a remote gas station. I have been to some remote places in this province and just a casual conversation from a couple of older ladies up in Fort Chipewyan led me to a wonderful lake. We drove to the lake together and listened to the loons, and we called the loons, and they told me about their land and how much it meant to them to have visitors come and experience it. The stories they told were exciting, sad, beautiful, and mesmerizing.