With International Women’s Day approaching on March 8, Indigenous Tourism Alberta (ITA) is showcasing its female members who are working to strengthen the Indigenous tourism industry in Alberta, while simultaneously educating travelers on what it means to be a modern Indigenous woman.
Nationally, 33 percent of Indigenous businesses are owned by women. In Alberta, that number is even higher with 49 percent of ITA’s members being female-owned businesses. Indigenous women across the province represent a change from the early years of Canada’s tourism development when Indigenous people were largely excluded and often exploited by the industry.
“It has been an honor to work at ITA with so many wonderful women who are passionate about their culture and heritage and showcasing it to the world,” said Mackenzie Brown, director of industry development for ITA. “In every corner of our province, we have women displaying their skills, art, and businesses that are not only helping to accelerate the growth of Indigenous tourism but also the overall economic recovery of the province.”
Together, ITA’s female members help to re-educate travelers and to shine a light on the alarming rate at which Indigenous women are still dying and disappearing. In the past 30 years, more than 4,000 Indigenous women have gone missing and today Indigenous women are still 12 times more likely than other women in Canada to go missing or be killed.
Calgary-based member, Colouring it Forward, owned by Diana Frost, works with Indigenous artists and Elders to create authentic books, cards, and journals to tell the stories of Indigenous Peoples and history through the power of art. Colouring it Forward partners with a different grassroots organization on each project including those that support Indigenous female empowerment like the Stardale Women’s Group.
The Indigenous entrepreneur community in Alberta remains strong post-pandemic with female entrepreneurs supporting each other and breaking down centuries of gender stereotypes. Mallory Yawnghwe, owner of the Indigenous Box, has created a seasonal subscription box that exclusively contains Indigenous-made products from across the country. As a female entrepreneur herself, Yawnghwe saw the opportunity to both financially support and promote Indigenous entrepreneurs while ensuring that Indigenous products come from authentic sources and each unique culture is not being culturally appropriated.
Melrene Savoy, owner of Native Diva Creations, emphasizes the importance of keeping traditional beadwork practices in her jewelry-making, but brings a modern flair to each piece, landing herself a spot to showcase her jewelry line in New York Fashion Week last year. Savoy, nominated for the 2022 Indigenous Tourism Alberta Leadership Award, continues to be a shining example of honoring the Indigenous traditions that have been practiced in Canada since time immemorial while remaining creative as an artist.
An inspiring example of an Indigenous women-led business includes Alberta’s first interpretive Métis cultural center, Métis Crossing, located just an hour from Edmonton. Here it’s Executive Director Juanita Marois that leads the growing operation that continues to introduce exciting projects. With Marois at the helm, Metis Crossing has been recognized by Conde Nast as one of the top places to visit in 2022.
Just a few hours southwest of Métis Crossing is Painted Warriors which shares Ojibway, Cree, and Mohawk heritage by reconnecting visitors to the land through wilderness education, Indigenous traditions, and hands-on training. Run by Tracey Klettl, Painted Warriors challenges stereotypes about Indigenous women by teaching such traditional survival skills as hunting, archery, and horseback riding - all activities that do not conform to traditional gender norms.
Explore the full list of female ITA members and their travel stories at IndigenousTourismAlberta.ca.
About Indigenous Tourism Alberta
Driven by the Indigenous Tourism Alberta Strategy 2020-2024, Indigenous Tourism Alberta (ITA) encourages and promotes authentic Indigenous tourism that showcases the unique and immersive experiences offered by its members throughout Alberta. This strategy is industry-driven, industry-lead, and directed by Indigenous People. Through a unified industry voice, Indigenous Tourism Alberta focuses on creating and nurturing partnerships between associations, organizations, governments, and industry leaders from across Alberta to support the stability and growth of Indigenous tourism. Further to this, ITA’s goal is to create a resilient Indigenous tourism industry that can weather future economic instability while also enhancing economic viability and further supporting Indigenous people throughout the province by sharing stories, culture and experiences with a global audience.
In the spirit of respect, reciprocity, and truth, ITA honours and acknowledge Moh’kinstsis and the traditional Treaty 7 territory and oral practices of the Blackfoot confederacy: Siksika, Kainai, Piikani as well as the Îyâxe Nakoda and Tsuut’ina nations. We acknowledge that this territory is home to the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region 3 within the historical Northwest Métis homeland. Finally, we acknowledge all Nations, Indigenous and non, who live, work, and play and help us steward this land, honor and celebrate this territory. This sacred gathering place provides us with an opportunity to engage in and demonstrate leadership on reconciliation. Thank you for your enthusiasm and commitment to join our team on the lands of Treaty 7 territory.