Banff Jasper Collection

Pursuit's friendship with Indigenous communities began in the late 1800s when Jim and Bill Brewster (then just 10 and 12 years old) were shown all the local Banff trails by Stoney-Nakoda nation member William Twin.

The Brewster boys soon started their tour guide operations and stayed lifelong friends with William and the Stoney Nation.

Today, Pursuit continues to build relationships and collaborate with local Indigenous communities.

Learning and growing together

Our friends Elder Barry Wesley and Wyanne Smallboy-Wesley facilitate annual Indigenous-led cultural training, providing our new guides with traditional language and learning through Stoney storytelling. In 2023, we had more than 85 guides participate in this inspiring educational opportunity. Cooks with Stones is another ongoing collaboration that invites Stoney youth into our Banff Jasper Collection kitchens for a four-week culinary internship. Upon completion, Pursuit employment opportunities are available to program graduates.

Two people cook together over a wood-fired grill  in a park.

Our most prominent and widely celebrated collaboration is the Banff Gondola's immersive winter experience, Nightrise, on Sulphur Mountain. For this, we partnered with Stoney Nations and Montreal-based multimedia agency Moment Factory to create a magical luminary extravaganza showcasing traditional Stoney language, drumming, and storytelling. Indigenous Tourism Alberta (ITA), the non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing and promoting authentic Indigenous tourism province-wide, formally recognized the multi-sensory show with a Certificate of Indigenous Tourism Excellence (CITE) Award for Allyship/ Partnership in 2022.

"We're thrilled with Nightrise, not only because it's such an amazing experience for guests, but because it amplifies Indigenous voices," says Mackenzie Brown, director of development for Indigenous Tourism Alberta. "It is built on true partnership with the Stoney-Nakoda Nation, offering insight into Indigenous culture and stories while benefiting both the nation and Pursuit. This is what true reciprocal relationship-based partnerships are all about."

A person walks through a room with glowing lights against the walls.

Taking action for truth and reconciliation

On September 30, National Truth and Reconciliation Day, Pursuit offered team members an opportunity to take part in ITA-accredited Indigenous experiences. In Banff, Jordan Ede of Mahikan Trails led a medicine walk, sharing his knowledge and ancestors' stories. In Jasper, Matricia Bauer of Warrior Women provided a traditional tea ceremony.

"It's great seeing Pursuit building partnerships with Indigenous entrepreneurs, particularly in the mountain parks region where Indigenous Peoples were forcibly removed, and Indigenous voices remain largely marginalized," says Brown.

Indigenous Peoples across Alberta and Golden B.C. received complimentary admission to Banff Jasper Collection tours and attractions on National Truth and Reconciliation Day, totalling 1,462 free admissions. Additionally, Golden Skybridge hosted the Métis Nation Columbia River Society's blanket exercise that shed light on the need for truth and reconciliation.

A group of First Nations leaders meeting with a businessman.

Advancing education and awareness

We enhanced our commitment to advance Indigenous relations by sponsoring two full-day ITA Cultural Awareness Workshops in partnership with Banff Lake Louise Tourism. The workshops, which ITA designs to help tourism organizations broaden their understanding of Indigenous history and living culture, were carefully tailored for the Banff region.

For the 50 attendees each day, ITA members led experiences enhanced by classroom-style learning and discussions. Heather Black, owner-guide of Buffalo Stone Woman, offered her illuminating Blackfoot perspective on conservation and Indigenous tourism practices during a guided medicine nature walk at the top of the Banff Gondola. ITA-member panellists, including Cassie Ayoungman from Soul of Miistaki, a local outdoor adventure company creating connections to traditional Indigenous lands, and Quinn Soonias, founder of Drift Out West Fly Fishing, facilitated meaningful conversations that provided deeper insight and understanding.

The feedback from Banff's inaugural Cultural Awareness Workshops was overwhelmingly positive, with ITA noting the collaboration as a significant step in our journey for truth and reconciliation.

"Pursuit is showing all the signs of a genuine commitment to truth and reconciliation and has worked hard to build and maintain relationships with Indigenous Peoples," shares Brown. "Perhaps most importantly, we are seeing the Pursuit team recognize that this isn't a trend or a box to check – they are acknowledging that authentic partnerships benefit everybody involved because they create opportunities for business growth in a way that supports Indigenous families, culture, language, and nations. This is the true power of Indigenous tourism, and we're thrilled to see Pursuit take its first steps in this direction."

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