Skip to main content

Explore and experience Indigenous cultures in BC

National Indigenous History Month in June is an important month to connect with, experience and learn about the traditional ancestral territories and Indigenous Peoples of the lands known today as BC.

Indigenous people have lived in the area now known as BC for over 10,000 years with their own territories, governance and distinct cultures and traditions. Today, the Government of BC recognizes 204 Indigenous communities and there are more than 200,000 Indigenous people living in the province, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit. Over 30 different Indigenous languages and approximately 60 dialects are spoken among them.

There are amazing Indigenous cultural experiences to be found all over British Columbia. Here are some ways you can immerse yourself in our past, present and future.

Visit Indigenous cultural centres

‘Travel with intention and move beyond what you know’ is the advice shared on the Indigenous Tourism BC website. To help build your understanding of the lands we live on, Indigenous cultural centres feature exhibits, heritage sites and the opportunity to shop for locally-made products.

One of the most remarkable examples of this is on Haida Gwaii. The Haida Heritage Centre is located at Ḵay 'Llnagaay, or Sea-Lion Town, an ancient village site. This stunning 50,000-square-foot centre houses the Haida Gwaii Museum, Performance House, Carving Shed and Canoe House.

Another stand-out experience is the Nk'Mip Desert Cultural Centre in Osoyoos (Sylix First Nation territory). This state-of-the-art interpretive centre is an architectural marvel constructed into a hillside. You’ll see indoor and outdoor galleries and two multimedia theatre experiences.

These centres are dotted all over BC. To find your nearest location, check out the list on the Indigenous Tourism BC website. Other popular sites include:

Jack Sam's Restaurant and Lounge in Little Shuswap Lake at Quaaout Lodge and Spa

Image: Jack Sam’s Restaurant & Lounge

Dine at Indigenous restaurants, cafes, lodges and wineries

One way of experiencing Indigenous culture is to eat your way around the province as you dine on traditional and modern Indigenous meals. Check out delicious Indigenous-inspired fare at restaurants, food festivals and specialist resorts, including:

  • Indigenous World Winery, Kelowna. Planning to visit the Okanagan? Try the grapes at this Indigenous-owned and operated winery.
  • Jack Sam's Restaurant & Lounge, Little Shuswap Lake. Located at Quaaout Lodge and Spa, the restaurant features a farm-to-table lifestyle and specialties include Pacific provider smoked salmon on bannock and fresh berry shortcake.
  • Nemiah Valley Lodge, Nemiah Valley in the Chilcotin. Stay at the lodge and your package will include an exclusive menu that features locally sourced ingredients with an accent on fresh and healthy.
  • Nk'mip Cellars, Osoyoos. The first Indigenous-owned winery in North America produces internationally acclaimed, award-winning wines.
  • Salmon n’ Bannock, Vancouver. This bistro features a bison pot roast and wild sockeye salmon served on Ojibwe wild rice.
  • Chef Shirley Lang, Victoria. Combining Indigenous ingredients and global flavours, Chef Lang offers menu consultations, clandestine dinners and culinary tours.
  • Thunderbird Café, Whistler. Their Indigenous-inspired menu features affordable daily specials like smoked sockeye salmon grilled panini and cedar plank Squamish salmon chowder.

Indigenous World Winery KelownaImage: Indigenous World Winery, Kelowna.

Stay in Indigenous-owned accommodation

A great way to travel around BC is by supporting Indigenous-owned and operated lodgings. For example, you’ll experience a uniquely special lodge stay at the Arctic Divide Lodge in Dease Lake, the traditional territory of the Tahltan nation, which offers stylish boutique accommodations halfway between Terrace, Smithers and Whitehorse, Yukon—just take your shoes off as you enter so you don’t track mud on their gorgeous hardwood floors!

In the Hiellen Village Longhouses in Masset on Haida Gwaii, you’ll be surrounded by endless beaches and unforgettable ancient forests. Back in Vancouver, on (xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) territory, the Skwachàys Lodge has a program to host Indigenous artists (musicians, actors, sculptors and painters) from around the province to create their art free of cost.

Here are a few more to explore:

Forest Spirits Suite at Skwachàys Lodge VancouverImage: Forest Spirits Suite, Skwachàys Lodge, Vancouver

Take a one-of-a-kind Indigenous-led tour

Be at one with nature with an Indigenous-led tour. You can experience canoeing, kayaking, hiking, snowshoeing and Coast Salish art in the Vancouver area, including the Sunshine Coast (home to the traditional, ancestral territories of the Skwxwú7mesh, Shíshálh, Tla'amin, Klahoose and Homalco Nations) with Aboriginal Eco Tours.

See bears in their habitat

In Indigenous communities here in the Pacific Northwest of BC, the bear plays a significant role in rainforest ecosystems. They carry salmon from rivers to the forests, providing fertile grounds for plant growth. In many local Indigenous cultures, bears represent strength, courage, vitality, health and family.

Thanks to Indigenous guides in BC, you can venture into the sanctuaries of black bears and grizzly bears as they feed on salmon and play in pristine BC forests. Check out the bear-viewing tours offered by the likes of:

Bear sitting on coastal BC rocks

Go on a whale-watching tour

Around the world, whales are celebrated by Indigenous cultures as guides, protectors, ancestral spirits and deities. Here in BC, the mighty orca is seen as the guardian of the ocean who commands respect from seals, dolphins and sharks.

Led by expert whale-watching guides, you can experience a tour to witness majestic whale families on BC’s coast. You’ll see the orca, humpback and grey whale families of the Pacific Northwest as they breach and sing in the Salish Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Options for your Indigenous whale-watching tour include:

Man in kayak whale watching as four Orca whales swim by and breach the ocean surface

Get inspired in Indigenous art galleries

Indigenous art galleries are excellent places to view breath-taking artwork and special artifacts from Pacific Northwest Indigenous communities.

At The Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, you’ll see beautiful historic jewellery and sculptures and you can take the Totem Pole Walk. In the boutique Skwachàys Lodge across town, Canada’s first Indigenous arts hotel, you can visit the art gallery to see carvings and drums and maybe even find creations from their artist in residence.

Here’s are some more awe-inspiring Indigenous art galleries in BC:

Plan an incredibly enriching month

These are just a few of the adventures, meals and resorts you can experience throughout our province.

To help plan an unforgettable trip, use the free Indigenous BC Trip Planner App. It’ll help you find authentic experiences and Indigenous businesses, learn Indigenous words and phrases and hear traditional stories, songs and legends.

Visit BCAA Trip Planning for more travel tips, tools and discounts as you book your experiences, hotels, car rentals, flights and cruises around BC.

As with any time you travel, it's worth getting peace of mind and protecting your travel investment with trip protection coverage. BCAA Travel Insurance's Trip Protection Package covers trips within BC, including pre-paid non-refundable travel costs. Find out more here.

What are you waiting for? It's time to plan your trip to explore, learn about and reflect on the natural wonders and rich Indigenous cultures of our beautiful province.

Header Image: Rolf Bettner / Haida Heritage Centre, Haida Gwaii