COAST SALISH TERRITORY (Vancouver, BC) – March 31, 2022 - Today, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) supported the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) by closing their week-long historic meeting with Pope Francis, head of the Catholic Church, with a powerful dance performance, and a strong message regarding the role of tourism and reconciliation.
The performance was created to showcase the strength, resilience and pride of Indigenous Peoples to the world. It also provided a glimpse into the culture and tourism experiences that supporters can take part in to learn about the impact of residential schools in order to better support decolonization efforts.
“Our delegation of dancers want to show to the world that our culture is alive and continues to thrive,” said Keith Henry, President and CEO of ITAC. “This is what Indigenous tourism has always meant to me. By helping the world understand why reconciliation is so important for our communities, how supporting Indigenous-owned businesses across Canada truly makes a difference and by providing Indigenous Peoples with a platform to proudly showcase their culture and tell their stories, we can work to build a better future for all Peoples.”
ITAC prepared a program grounded by the vision of Dene National Chief Gerald Antoine, AFN portfolio holder for this mission. The program, guided by Antoine’s concept of family, connection, resistance, strength, survival and celebration, demonstrated the resiliency and diversity of Indigenous cultures from coast to coast.
Through cultural revitalization, ITAC continues to support and market a number of Indigenous tourism businesses built on the sites of former residential schools in Canada. One example is the Indigenous-owned St. Eugene Golf Resort Casino, which transformed a former residential school site into a colourful cultural attraction. Today, St. Eugene Resort embeds stories of residential schools into its programming, teaching visitors about the complex history and continued resiliency of Indigenous Peoples.
“We invite visitors from near and far to understand the horrors experienced by Indigenous Peoples in Canada over the past four centuries, particularly from the early 1800s to 1996. We hope that by listening to survivors, and experiencing these sites, visitors can support our decolonization efforts and lift Indigenous voices,” said Henry.
The AFN called on Pope Francis this week to issue an acknowledgement by the Roman Catholic Church for its role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual violence of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools in Canada.
“The hard and painful work AFN did in regard to this visit was very important, and ITAC continues to support AFN and increase public awareness of the need for reconciliation as a result of historical wrongs,” said Henry.
For more information or to learn more about Indigenous experiences in Canada supporting reconciliation efforts, visit DestinationIndigenous.ca/Reconciliation.
About the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
The Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) is a national non-profit Indigenous tourism industry organization established in 2015. ITAC is the lead organization tasked with growing and promoting the Indigenous tourism industry across the country.â€¯Inspired by a vision for a thriving Indigenous tourism economy sharing authentic, memorable and enriching experiences, ITAC develops relationships with groups and regions with similar mandates to enable collective support, product development, promotion and marketing of authentic Indigenous tourism businesses in a respectful protocol. Connect with ITAC on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.
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Rome, Italy 31 March 2022
1. Indoor indigenous dance performance
2. Delegation walking towards St. Peter’s Square
3. Outdoor indigenous dance performance
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Keith Henry, CEO of Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
"This was a very powerful week for the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada here at the Vatican with our cultural performers for many nations. We're proud to support our indigenous leaders as one of the objectives of why we're here at the Vatican this week. And of course, we're trying to raise awareness about the impacts and how our communities are rebounding. We have young cultural performers from many nations, and it's been an exceptionally powerful week. A lot of healing is happening in our country and it's indigenous tourism and our performers and our artists that are truly leading that charge."
5. SOUNDBITE (English) Marilyn Jensen, Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
"My name is Marilyn Jensen. I'm from the Yukon. I'm in Tlingit/Tagish Khwáan. I currently serve as vice chair for Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, and I lead a dance group called the Dakhká Khwaán . And in this particular occasion, I had the absolute pleasure and I'm so grateful for this, but I was able to bring this find all of these beautiful dancers from around Canada. You know, part of the purpose that we came here is to hold up our people who are doing really hard work very, very painful, you know, recounting the story of their history, which is, you know, not the not the nicest story. And so we came so that we could support them and be there when they came out to lift them with our songs and our drums and our voices and just us, you know, the beautiful, young, vibrant people that we have on our team here. You know, there's nothing more strengthening than that to know that we survived and we endured through, you know, all of the challenges and difficulties and pain that our people have been through. But we still we're still here and we're still singing our songs, and that's amazing."