You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience and security.

Skip to main content
Text Size:

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.


Alberta is a stunning province and is an automatic draw for tourism, but it is the people of this province that give meaning to the “why” tourists should come to Alberta.

Brenda Holder

What are your hopes for the future of Alberta’s tourism industry? How will your business play a role in that?

My hope is that we take all these amazing new and creative ways that businesses have developed and merge them with the excellent experiences offered pre-COVID-19 to enhance the diversity of the offerings in the province. We have a huge opportunity to explore and develop new experiences and attract new markets. Our expanded online presence has helped make more people aware of Alberta and what it has to offer. My business will emulate that and work towards a strategy that encompasses all the old ways that have always worked, while adding new online experiences!

How can industry work together to recover and build even stronger post-pandemic?

This is super easy! Travel Alberta coined a term some years ago that has stuck with me ever since. They pre-empted it by saying that competition does not work for tourism, cooperation does. So, they said “Co-opetition” is an ideal way. This hit me hard. We all have something exceptional to offer in tourism in Alberta, and if we work together through Co-opetition, we will come out better and stronger.

What do you wish the rest of the world knew about tourism in Alberta?

Alberta has a whopping five national Parks: Banff, Jasper, Waterton, Wood Buffalo, and Elk Island. We are much more than our beautiful Rockies. We have plains/prairies, mountains, hoodoos and badlands, Canadian shield, semi-arid desert, and massive waterways. We have a rich and vibrant culture encompassed in all who live here, from Indigenous peoples to those who came to live after. Alberta has spectacular scenery all over the entire province.

We know that Albertans will play a key role in the initial economic recovery of our local tourism industry, as health restrictions slowly ease. What would you say to encourage Albertans to continue exploring their own backyard, even when it’s possible to travel elsewhere again?

When we are on an airplane, they tell us in the safety demonstration to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first. We need to use this analogy to help our fellow Albertans understand that working on our own economic health is vital for helping to rebuild. If we love to live in Alberta, then we need to look after the economy by spending at home. The dollars that we spend here will go a long way to ensuring Alberta’s economy is healthy and sustainable through tourism. In addition, I think it is a wonderful opportunity for Albertans to explore places in the province that they have never been to, so we can reacquaint ourselves with our home, land, and people.

What is your favourite “hidden gem” in Alberta?

It is so hard to choose, there are so many! Do I have to choose just one? Devona Lookout is one of my favourites in Jasper National Park, my homeland and birthplace. It is beautiful and has a ton of my family history there. I feel a deep connection every time I go there.

What is your favourite memory of travelling in Alberta?

Being in an airplane flying from Fort McMurray to Fort Chipewyan is a favourite memory of mine. I was in absolute awe of seeing the northern part of the province from above and being immersed in how incredibly beautiful the entire landscape is. It took my breath away!

Mahikan Trails offers guided hikes and medicine walks in summer and guided snowshoe tours and icewalks in winter. They also offer a variety of courses, webinars, and events designed to share Indigenous skills and knowledge.

You may also be interested in