Indigenous Women in BC Tourism

Indigenous women weave the fabric of Indigenous families, communities, knowledge, and economies.

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Indigenous women weave the fabric of Indigenous families, communities, knowledge, and economies.

Leading in aviation and wellness, business and art, culture sharing and stewardship, Indigenous women are enhancing their own lives, strengthening their families, and contributing to the advancement of their communities through leadership and entrepreneurship in tourism-related industries in British Columbia.

Restaurant owners, curators, artists, and managers–Indigenous women bring unique perspectives to critical issues such as food sovereignty, economic development, cultural sharing and knowledge keeping, and environmental sustainability and stewardship.

Indigenous Matriarchal Knowledge and Self-Determination

Indigenous female leadership fosters economic independence, self-determination, and collaborative relationships that support reconciliation, become avenues for success, and inspire future generations of Indigenous women.

Indigenous women are pointing to pathways that lead to economic independence and self-governance and create opportunities for Indigenous success–removing social and financial barriers, even in remote areas.

By building community relationships that support reconciliation, sustainability, and cultural stewardship, Indigenous women in British Columbia positively affect tourism, hospitality, transportation, retail, art, and storytelling.

Standing Strong in BC

AlisonPascal / Logan Swayze
Tin Wis, Tofino

Indigenous Women in BC Tourism

The following are some of the Indigenous women currently shaping Indigenous Tourism in British Columbia, Canada.

Erin Brillon

Owner of Totem Design House

Comox, BC

Totem Design House began in 2014 when Erin Brillon began collaborating with screen-printing her brother Jesse’s Haida designs on t-shirts and hoodies. The custom clothing line has since evolved into a premier Indigenous lifestyle brand that has expanded to produce apparel, including eco-friendly women’s wear, jewelry, fine art, giftware, and wellness products. The Brillons are of Haida and Cree ancestry and have grown up profoundly appreciating their rich cultural heritage. Raised on the Northwest Coast of BC to a commercial fishing family, the two are influenced by their Nation’s art and surrounding nature.

The business rapidly expanded in 2014 when Erin and her then-14-year-old daughter learned to screen print. In 2016, Erin launched her first eco-friendly collections of women’s wear and home decor textiles.

In 2015, acclaimed Northwest Coast artist Andy Everson joined the team. Today, Totem Design House produces a wide range of works, including an exclusive collection of Andy’s works featuring traditional motifs on hemp pillows and a series melding traditional art with pop culture.

Erin Brillon, Co-Owner of Totem Design House

Sarah Meconse Mierau

Sarah Meconse Mierau

Owner of Ancestor Cafe/Tradish

Vancouver, BC

Ancestor Cafe is owned by Chef Sarah Meconse Mierau, founder and owner of the Indigenous jam and catering company Tradish. Located inside Fort Langley National Historic Site, the new cafe expands on Tradish’s mission to bring traditional Indigenous nourishment to urban Indigenous and non-Indigenous health-conscious people while supporting Indigenous food sovereignty.

Diners at Ancestor Cafe will enjoy cuisine prepared by Chef Sarah Meconse Mierau and her 17-year-old son, lead cook at their new cafe. The mother/son duo is known for their nourishing jams, using traditional botanical ingredients for additional health benefits.

Teara Fraser

Owner of Iskwew Air

Vancouver, BC

Liberty Wilderness Lodge

Babine Lake, BC

Award-winning entrepreneur and Canadian aviation leader, CEO Teara Fraser is a serial entrepreneur with a penchant for breaking boundaries in more than a few industries. As the first Indigenous woman to establish her own airline, Iskwew Air, Fraser is carving a path through what has historically been a male-dominated industry.

This year marks another debut for the influential woman as she launches Liberty Wilderness Lodge on Babine Lake. The off-grid wellness lodge offers a unique and rustic remote wilderness experience. Guests are surrounded by nature and have the opportunity to reconnect with the land, sea, and sky. Nestled in the trees and just steps from the ocean, the resort will offer some of the region’s most incredible Indigenous outdoor experiences.

Teara Fraser

Alison Pascal

Alison Pascal

Curator at Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre

Whistler, BC

Guided by her passion for the land and by the protocols of the Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw and L̓il̓wat7úl Nations, Alison Pascal curates the exhibits for the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. Following a background in tourism management, Pascal was introduced to Indigenous Tourism during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, where the L̓il̓wat7úl (Lil’wat) Nation partnered with four host First Nations to develop education opportunities, including opportunities in the tourism sector.

Starting by sharing her community’s story, Pascal’s role slowly evolved as she took on more curatorial tasks–maintaining the art pieces, helping to install new exhibitions, and collaborating with local artists. Before long, she was developing and curating exhibits and now leads the team in her role as Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Centre Curator.

Marina LeClair

Co-Founder of Tawnshi Charcuterie

Vancouver, BC

Tawnshi Charcuterie is a twist on the typical charcuterie fare, featuring unique fusions of Indigenous flavours and ingredients sourced from Indigenous suppliers and communities across Canada.

The idea for the innovative company came to co-founder Marina LeClair in the shower and has garnered attention for the incredible ingredients that differ with each box, including pickled milkweed pods, cedar jelly, sea bacon, and a variety of other Indigenous foods not often included on traditional charcuterie boards. Every box has a QR code that tells you more about each item, providing insight into where the product originated and how best to enjoy it.

Marina LeClair

Maria Clark

Maria Clark

Assistant General Manager at Tin Wis

Tofino, BC

As Assistant General Manager at Tin Wis in Tofino, Maria oversees a staff of more than thirty people. She is passionate about sharing her Nuu-Chah-nulth knowledge with people from around the world and inspiring other Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation members on the Tin Wis team to offer their Nuu-Chah-nulth culture and language as a gift to guests.

Born and raised in Tofino, Maria has deep roots in the local community and a strong connection to the land. Throughout her tenure at Tin Wis Resort, Maria advanced through several key roles before taking on the Assistant Manager position. She further demonstrates her commitment to the Tla-o-qui-aht community by volunteering and supporting local events and initiatives that promote environmental sustainability and cultural preservation.

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

New (Old) Perspectives and Possibilities

These journeys inspire future generations of Indigenous female entrepreneurs and emphasize the importance and prevalence of the groundbreaking contributions made by Indigenous women in business and leadership.

Indigenous Tourism BC celebrates and strives to support the success of Indigenous women on their unique paths. We uplift these good stories so that all recognize Indigenous women’s power, knowledge, and achievements and the boundless possibilities within their reach.