Female-Owned Businesses Leading Resurgence of Indigenous Tourism in Alberta

Female Indigenous Tourism Alberta members
Female Indigenous Tourism Alberta members

Indigenous Tourism Alberta (ITA) is showcasing its female members working to strengthen the industry in Alberta, with International Women’s Day approaching on 08MAR.

Across Canada, 33 per cent of Indigenous businesses are owned by women, according to the ITA, while 49 per cent of ITA’s businesses are female-owned.

“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,” said the ITA.

“It has been an honour 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.”

ITA’s female members also help to re-educate travellers and shine a light on the 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, according to the ITA.

Women-Owned Indigenous Travel Businesses in Alberta

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 different grassroots organizations 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. 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.

Melrene Savoy, owner of Native Diva Creations, emphasizes a mix of traditional beadwork practices and modern flair in her jewelry-making, and landed herself a spot to showcase her jewelry line in New York Fashion Week in 2021. Savoy, nominated for the 2022 Indigenous Tourism Alberta Leadership Award, continues to honour the Indigenous traditions that have been practiced in Canada since time immemorial while remaining creative as an artist.

An example of an Indigenous women-led business includes Alberta’s first interpretive Métis cultural centre, Métis Crossing, located around an hour from Edmonton. Executive Director Juanita Marois that leads the growing operation that continues to introduce new projects. With Marois at the helm, Metis Crossing has been recognized by Conde Nast as one of the top places to visit in 2022.

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.

More information on ITA, and a full list of its female members, is available on its web site.

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