In a world often defined by lines on maps and rigid national borders, Indigenous cultures stand as powerful reminders that universal connection transcends artificial divisions. Across the globe, Indigenous communities have maintained a collective stewardship of the land, fostering a sense of unity that defies conventional geopolitical bounds. Long before the lasting impacts of colonial influence, First Peoples engaged in extensive intercontinental trade and exchange networks. These systems advanced the communal sharing of knowledge, resources, and cultural practices across vast international territories. 

More recently, Indigenous Peoples have increasingly come together in pan-Indigenous movements that address ubiquitous challenges and advocate for shared rights. Issues such as environmental conservation, cultural preservation, and social justice bring together communities from different regions, creating a global network that challenges the very notion of geographic separation.

The Indigenous Tourism sector acknowledges the profound interconnectedness that transcends geographic confines, uniting humanity. In pursuit of global industry leadership, The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) not only embraces this philosophy but actively expands its influence beyond the surface boundaries of Turtle Islands, seeking to create a significant worldwide impact. This goal encompasses the strategic planning of international events, activations, and initiatives designed to appeal to a diverse audience from various countries, with the aim of attracting and educating new visitors.


The Historic Papal Visits – Vatican City, Rome, Italy

On the pivotal day of March 31st, 2022, The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) collaborated with the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) for a historic meeting with Pope Francis. Their mission was clear: to urge acknowledgment of the Catholic Church’s role in the abuse suffered by Indigenous children in Canadian residential schools.

Keith Henry, ITAC’s dynamic CEO, emphasized their unwavering support for AFN’s crucial work. “We spared no effort to stand by them, amplifying public awareness and support in addressing the continuing repercussions of historical wrongs.”

Demonstrating unity, ITAC provided essential support by sponsoring Indigenous dancers who captivated the Rome delegation. Beyond a vibrant spectacle, these dancers showcased the rich culture and immersive experiences awaiting travellers. Under the guidance of Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine, ITAC crafted a program of traditional dance and song. Inspired by core principles of family, connection, resistance, strength, survival, and celebration, this program reflected the enduring resilience of Indigenous cultures. The dancers, embodying the transformative power of music and storytelling, became the beating heart of this extraordinary delegation.

Indigenous Culinary Showcase – Paris, France

In a culinary celebration transcending borders, five Indigenous visionaries from Canada graced the prestigious Studio Ducasse in Paris, France, in October of 2022. Through the continued partnership of ITAC and DC, these chefs, hailing from diverse Indigenous backgrounds, shared not only their exceptional culinary skills but also the rich cultural pride, historical significance of ingredients, and nurtured lands that inspire their creations.

The internationally acclaimed lineup included culinary talents such as Christa Bruneau-Guenther from Peguis First Nation, Manitoba; Inez Cook, a member of the Nuxalk Nation from Bella Coola, British Columbia; Maxime Lizotte representing Wolastoqiyik, Quebec; Marc de Passorio from the First Nations Hotel-Museum in Wendake, Quebec; and Joseph Shawana, an Odawa chef from Wikwemikong Unceded Territory, Ontario.

The event not only highlighted the mastery of Indigenous cuisine but also served as a platform for cultural exchange, cultivating a deeper appreciation for the diverse Indigenous culinary traditions rooted in the lands they come from. Through this culinary journey, these chefs bridged the gap between continents, sharing the stories and flavors that make Canadian Indigenous cuisine a unique and essential part of the global culinary landscape.

The Vatican, Vatican City, Rome, Italy | Photo: Zane Buchanan

Audley Travel Event – London, England

On November 16, 2022, ITAC partnered with Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC), Indigenous Tourism Alberta (ITA), Indigenous Tourism Quebec (ITQ), and Destination Canada (DC), joining forces with the UK-based tour operator Audley Travel. This marked Audley Travel’s inaugural Indigenous tourism event in London, a significant milestone for the UK operator recognized as the market’s largest by the Financial Times. Attended by nearly 200 guests, including 150 Audley Travel clients, the event showcased the diverse tapestry of Indigenous experiences across Canada, featuring culture, culinary delights, and storytelling.

“ITAC is committed to working alongside our Provincial and Territorial Indigenous Tourism Partners from coast to coast to coast,” said Keith Henry, President and CEO of ITAC. “It has been tremendous seeing the overwhelming interest and support from the UK market and, in particular, our partners at Audley Travel to include Indigenous travel experiences. Working together, we will build the Indigenous tourism sector in Canada back in a good way. This is a strong action towards the path of Reconciliation.”

In turn, Daniel Robb, Audley Travel’s Chief Marketing Officer, expressed delight in the inaugural consumer event, showcasing authentic Indigenous products available for booking in Canada. Marsha Walden, President and CEO of DC, praised the collaboration with Audley Travel as a superb opportunity to engage worldly travellers with a genuine curiosity for nature, culture, and community exploration. The event marked a successful collaboration with Indigenous tourism partners from across Canada.

Signature Owners Meeting – Wailea, Maui, Hawaii

In September 2023, Signature Travel Network joined forces with ITAC and DC to host its 2023 travellers Meeting. During this year’s meeting in Wailea, Maui, a symbolic handover occurred from native Hawaiian Kalei ‘Uweko’olanito, cultural programming manager of Grand Wailea, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, to Mohawk Elder Ka’nahsohon Kevin Deer of Canada at the closing ceremony.

This Indigenous-led approach not only adds authenticity to Signature’s events but also raises awareness about the importance of understanding the lands we travel on and promotes Indigenous tourism experiences for travellers. This proactive step aligns with the growing interest in responsible and regenerative travel, setting an example for other leaders in the consortia space to follow.

“Having worked in the industry for more than 28 years collaborating with tourism boards around the globe to help drive tourism to their destinations, I know that tourism bridges cross-cultural understanding,” said Chris Alestra, VP of destination and air partnerships for Signature Travel Network. “The Indigenous sector has been a community that deserves more exposure and attention. Who better than Signature, whose very mission statement is focused on service, and with its 15,000 advisors, can help bring these vetted products to the forefront as a key component in a leisure vacation itinerary.”

Eastside Gallery, Berlin, Germany | Photo: Zane Buchanan

Indigenous Showcase Event – The Embassy of Canada, Berlin, Germany

On November 8th, 2023, ITAC once again teamed up with DC along with the Canadian Embassy in Germany to host the largest-ever Indigenous delegation in Europe. The event in Berlin aimed to showcase Indigenous storytelling, featuring immersive experiences by Canadian Indigenous tourism operators to raise awareness and appreciation for their offerings.

Evelyne Coulombe, Deputy Head of Mission at the Canadian Embassy in Germany, welcomed 50 German tour operators and 30 media representatives. The attendees were invited to enjoy a culinary journey curated by Chef Joseph Shawana, complemented by cultural performances, storied presentations by industry heavyweights, and intermittent networking opportunities for all attending.

This event symbolized a harmonious blend of cultures, marking a significant step in fostering a deeper understanding of Indigenous experiences in Canada. Through collaborative efforts, events like these contribute to ITAC’s international prominence, sparking interest among stakeholders, media, trade, and consumers alike.

Canada Showcase Europe 2023 – Hamberg, Germany

In the week spanning from November 10 to 17, 2023, ITAC partnered with Destination Canada, Indigenous Provincial and Territorial Partners, and tourism businesses to highlight Indigenous tourism at Canada Showcase Europe 2023 in Hamburg, Germany. Going beyond the typical trade show, this event served as a vibrant platform where Canadian suppliers connected with European and British tourism professionals to promote destinations, products, and experiences. The success of this initiative was achieved through well-planned presentations, delightful culinary experiences, captivating photo exhibitions, and engaging lectures.

ITAC’s objectives went beyond mere promotion; the focus was on increasing awareness, generating travel interest, and facilitating face-to-face communication. Emphasizing lesser-known destinations, the event aimed to boost bookings, room nights, and the length of stay. Indigenous tourism operators like Coastal Rainforest Safaris, Homalco Wildlife & Cultural Tours, and Klahoose Wilderness Resort were featured at ITAC’s booth, alongside Indigenous Provincial and Territorial Partners, contributing to showcasing Canada’s diverse array of products.

The event also included the transformative Team Canada Specialists Program, empowering participants to become ambassadors through advanced workshops and virtual webinars. A strategic session led by Destination Canada explored adapting to Canada’s seasonal opportunities, aligning the tourism industry with diverse experiences throughout the year. Over 100 travel trade representatives attended Travel Trade Appointments, expressing keen interest in collaborations and opportunities to bring more visitors to Indigenous tourism experiences in Canada.

The Vatican, Vatican City, Rome, Italy | Photo: Zane Buchanan

In addition to spearheading the aforementioned milestones, ITAC is advancing lasting partnerships with other national bodies, such as the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association, The Government of Chile, and NZ Maori Tourism. Forming a brilliant hivemind, these organizations are diligently crafting a global ecosystem of Indigenous-led tourism initiatives – with ITAC’s authenticity accreditation program, The Original Original, projected to become a global brand in the not-so-distant future. This said, ITAC expansive pursuits not only celebrate the diversity of Indigenous groups; but unite us in a collective exploration of the profound resilience woven into the fabric of all Indigenous cultures – ultimately revealing the communion of our global human family.

Zane Buchanan

Zane Buchanan

Zane, a Métis writer, producer, and digital storyteller based in Vancouver, British Columbia, takes great pride in the diverse career path he has forged. Starting as a freelance journalist, he transitioned into travel media when he was appointed the 2019 Saskatchewanderer by Tourism Saskatchewan. This experience solidified his standing in the tourism sector and paved the way for his work with the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC). At ITAC, Zane contributes to the creative direction of The Original Original authentication program and Destination Indigenous (ITAC’s consumer-facing presence). He oversees content and brand integrity while also serving as the executive editor of Nations Magazine.Beyond ITAC, Zane regularly contributes to Canadian Geographic, focusing on ethical travel. His contributions have earned him the esteemed title of a fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society, and he serves as a judge for the Travel Media Association of Canada Awards. His leadership includes a direct partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, with whom he attended the Historic Papal Visits in Rome in April 2022, in line with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action.As a sought-after speaker, Zane has presented at renowned conferences and events such as South by Southwest (SXSW), The SEE Conference, The International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC), and The IMPACT Conference. His influence extends to other creative mediums, including presenting the Contemporary Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year Award at the Juno Awards Ceremony annually.Beyond his various roles, Zane is the founder and creative director of CIVL Creative, a digital agency designed to meet the unique needs of nonprofits and social enterprises.