Influencer vs. Infiltrator: Indigenous tourism conference sparks empowerment


Influencer vs. Infiltrator: Indigenous tourism conference sparks empowerment

Jim Barr #2019IITC

Kelowna B.C. - One of the most compelling moments at the International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) recently held in Kelowna was the moment TV host, artist and activist Sarain Fox, proclaimed “It’s not influencer, it’s infiltrator,” in describing the importance of her role as a change-making indigenous woman and how others can do the same.

Her words resonated with the more than 700 of us in the room, underscoring the importance of how Indigenous tourism empowers communities across Canada and around the world. It was an inspiring discussion for all part of this catalytic experience for indigenous prosperity.

The Anishinaabekwe dancer, performer and TV host, of RISE on VICELAND and host of Future History on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), says her life’s work is using her voice and actions to make positive history for indigenous people. And she wants others to do the same.

Fox was just one the many fascinating people I had the pleasure of being inspired from this past week in Kelowna. I was so impressed by Fox and many others who attended the conference, so consider this list a series of introductions to these change makers so you can learn more, reach out, follow them on social media or book in for what they have to offer.

Follow Sarian for the daily as she works to pave Indigenous futures lined in culture and creative.


Hit play on this Twitter video for the captivating sound of PIQSIQ. Their music is a mix of Inuit throat singing with a little support from some cool technology. Sisters, Kayley Inuksuk Mackay and Tiffany Kuliktana Ayalik are Juno award winners with their new band PIQSIQ. No doubt will be seeing them on stage for another award soon.

Chris Istace

Chi-Chia from The Tla’amin Nation

Hats off to our friends in the Tla’amin Territory of the qathet Regional District (Powell River, north Sunshine Coast, BC), for winning the award for BC’s most outstanding Indigenous Accommodations. The Tla’amin owned Lund Resort at Klah ah men is the gateway to one of the world’s most pristine marine environments, home to Desolation Sound.

The Tla’amin is also home to infiltrator and author, Elder Chi-Chia, in Tla’amin traditional language whose book, “Written As I Remember It” is now mandatory reading for all indigenous studies students across UBC, SFU and other leading universities.

Wish Key, Kiixin, Huu-ah-ayt Nation

It’s always a pleasure to spend time with a force in his own right, Huu ay aht councillor Trevor Cootes as well as members of his team, including Cynthia Rainer and Cheryl Eardly. For the past few years they have been empowering their local people to reclaim and allow those who visit into what is now one of the world’s leading anthropology sites, Kiixin – a Huu ay aht 5,000-year-old first nations village.

Meet Wish Key, a cultural warrior and ambassador to this land and this transformative tour of their west coast village.

Spend a few days in Bamfield, minutes from the Kiixin site. Then head back into Port Alberni to visit with the Ahousaht and the Tla-o-qui-aht along Vancouver Island’s west coast (Tofino). The Ahousaht will take you to ancient hot springs while staying at the Tla-o-qui-aht’s beach side Best Western Tin Wis Resort Hotel.

(While in Tofino, within Tla-o-qui-aht territory, tune into Tuff City Radio on Wednesdays for “Fish Head Soup for the Soul,” produced and hosted by another legendary Indigenous rights leader, Terry Dorward)

Jenny Money, founder of the Okanagan Indigenous Music & Arts Festival 

Westbank First Nation and cultural infiltrator, Jenny Money, ensures everyone has access to appreciate Indigenous music and arts through her festival. Head to the Okanagan in early July 2020 and watch this page for updates.

Jenny Money played a key role in this latest ZenSeekers story about all things Indigenous through Kelowna and area.


Keith, Teresa and Sebastian, the team at Indigenous Tourism Association Canada

Keith Henry, Teresa Ryder and Sebastian Desnoyers are the change makers who are building an industry of indigenous tourism right before our eyes, while leaving a wake of empowerment and opportunity for the 634 First Nations in Canada, made up of more then 50 distinct languages.

Follow them on Instagram for 365 days of Indigenous inspiration and tag them with #IndigenousCanada on what you discover.

A special shout out to Alberta North East

Say hello to Juanita or Leon @MetisCrossing, who are building an Indigenous incubator that will fuel and help bring to the world Metis cultural entrepreneurs for the next 100 years. Then there’s John Ritchie whose gone back to his roots, introducing people into the wilds of Alberta’s Lakeland country, safely and educationally so we can learn from transformative experiences at his Hideaway Adventures.

There are also plenty of people who are working within nations across our country to infiltrate in their own ways, and making a difference. Check out the organization of Fisher River, Manitoba home to councillor Josh Sinclair. Take a look at what his team isbuilding with the Cree Nation’s Tourism and Business development sector.

Denise Young, from Tiger Eye Advisory Group, leading communities in Indigenous training for the future (speak with her on any cultural training programs you are looking to ignite.)

Congrats to JP Obbagy, from Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours – for Exceptional Outdoor Cultural Experiences.

Did you know Canada has a First Nations Snowboard Team? Sandy Ward, Mike and Cassi, from Canada’s First Nations Snowboard Team. It’s a legacy of the 2010 Vancouver Olympic and Paralympic Games.


Snakerun Master Class with @barkstagramman #firstnationssnowboardteam #snowboarding

A post shared by First Nations-Snowboard Team (@firstnationssnowboardteam) on

There is no way I could list all of the highlights of the Indigenous conference, so I highly recommend you check out the following:

  • Speak with Indigenous Tourism Canada about how you can learn more about events, activities and destinations

  • Mark September 29-October 1 2020 on your calendar, when this juggernaut of a game changer – The International Indigenous Tourism Conference (aka Infiltrate engine) – hits Portage and Main in Winnipeg.

Feeling motivated to learn more? Contact any of these folks on this list or visit one of the 107 Native Friendship Centres across Canada. Each one has programming and offerings. Volunteer and become an infiltrator to further Indigenous prosperity.

Learn more,

By doing so you will help preserve vital Indigenous cultures.

Learn more about the process of reconciliation. The Downie Wenjack Foundation allows for reconciliation support in all kinds of ways. Support today:

Get out there and explore #IndigenousCanada – I promise you it will change your life for the better.