Credit: Tourism Vancouver/Vision Event Photography Inc.
Vancouver’s extremely diverse Indigenous population includes First Nations, Inuit, and Métis people from across Canada. The City of Vancouver was built on the traditional territories of the Coast Salish, a larger cultural group made up of three Indigenous groups in modern-day Vancouver: the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm(Musqueam),Sḵwx̱wú7mesh(Squamish), and səl̓ilwətaɁɬ(Tsleil-Waututh). These three First Nations have a special spiritual, cultural, and economic connection to the land that goes back thousands of years. With that said, Vancouver’s rich cultural Indigenous history can be explored and experienced in many ways. From lodging to dining to museums and galleries, here is your guide to Indigenous tourism in Vancouver.
Begin your visit at Skwachàys Lodge, the first Indigenous boutique art hotel in Canada. The hotel doubles as socially responsible accommodation and gallery that showcases Indigenous art and culture. Skwachàys interior design features artwork, furniture, and accessories created by local Indigenous artists and designers. The rooftop Smudge Room and Longhouse Patio is open for guests to experience cultural practice and to share ceremony with Indigenous artists and hotel staff. Hotel guests are invited to participate in weekly experiences lead by Indigenous artists in residence, including beading, drum making, rattle making, carving, spoken word, and discussion.
Enjoy a day in nature and get out on the water with Takaya Tours, owned and operated by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation. Taykaya Tours provides interpretive paddles in either their replica ocean-going canoes or their sea kayaks. Guest paddle through the Burrard Inlet and Indian Arm while guides from the Coast Salish Nation sing songs, tell legends, and point out ancient village sites. Stay dry and explore Stanley Park with Talaysay Tours Talking Trees Tour. This walking tour is lead by a Talaysay guide-cultural ambassador who will share the many stories of the region, as well as the intimate cultural and scientific knowledge of the Northwest coast trees and plants. Talaysay Tours offers several authentic Aboriginal cultural and eco-tourism experiences in and around Vancouver, Squamish, and the Sunshine Coast.
Immerse yourself in Indigenous arts and culture when visiting the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia. The MOA houses one of the world’s finest displays of Northwest Coast First Nations arts in a spectacular Arthur Erickson designed building overlooking mountains and sea. The museum is home to the world’s largest collection of works by acclaimed Haida artist Bill-Reid, including his famous cedar sculpture The Raven and the First Men. For more works by Bill Reid, head to the Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art located in Downtown Vancouver. This public gallery of contemporary Indigenous Art of the Northwest Coast is named after Bill and is home to the Simon Fraser University Bill Reid Collection and seasonal exhibitions of contemporary Northwest Coast Indigenous Art. Head to Gastown to check out the Coastal Peoples Fine Art Gallery or make your way to the Musqueam Cultural Centre Gallery located in South Vancouver.
Cap off your visit with a cultural dining experience at Vancouver’s Salmon N’ Bannock Bistro. Located on West Broadway, this local restaurant proudly serves Aboriginal cuisine with a variety of “nationwide” inspired culinary delights, using the freshest seasonal ingredients, certified organic game, and wild fish. The restaurant also features First Nations art from upcoming artists focusing on traditional values, but with a modern twist. While you’re at it, keep an eye out for Mr. Bannock, Vancouver’s first Indigenous food truck showcasing fresh and local Indigenous ingredients and cooking methods.
For more information and trip inspiration, visit Indigenous Tourism BC.