Bbetween the Pacific Ocean and the Rocky Mountains, British Columbia (BC) is Canada’s westernmost province. It is also the second most visited city by international tourists, attracted by the beauty of the landscapes of its vast wild expanses as well as by Canadian Wildlife big ones like grizzlies and killer whales, ancient rainforests, majestic mountain ranges and dozens of islands, lakes and waterfalls. Plus, there’s another compelling reason to visit. British Columbia is home to the most diverse Indigenous cultures in Canada.
Long before the arrival of Europeans, the original inhabitants – First Nations, Métis and Inuit – lived here in what is now known as British Columbia for over 10,000 years. They have developed unique societies, customs, traditions, territories and laws. The way of life and culture evolved distinctly depending on whether one lived on the northwest coast or on the northwest plateau, between the Coast Mountains and the Rocky Mountains, resulting in great differences between peoples. They are, however, united by a deep connection to nature, a rich oral tradition and respect for elders.
When explorers and settlers arrived in the mid-18th century, the natives numbered in the thousands. Today, there are about 200,000, or about 4% of British Columbia’s 5.2 million people. British Columbia is Canada’s most diverse province for Indigenous peoples, home to 198 distinct First Nations, one-third of Canada’s total. And with 34 living languages and nearly 60 spoken dialects, British Columbia also has the most First Nations languages.
With such a wealth of cultures and a visitor-driven economy, British Columbia has a vibrant and growing Indigenous travel industry across six diverse regions of the province, led by Indigenous Tourism BC (ITBC). The Coast Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth and Kwakwakaw’akw are experts in navigating the Pacific Ocean around Vancouver Island. northern British Columbia is home to many distinct Indigenous peoples, including the Nisga’a, Haida and Tahltan; the Cariboo Chilcotin Coast, which stretches across the lower part of the province from the Pacific Coast to the Cariboo Mountains, is the territory of the Secwepemc, Tsilhqot’in and Dakelh; Vancouver’s coast and mountains are home to the Coast Salish, including the Squamish, Lil’wat, Sto:lo, Musqueam and Tsleil-Waututh; Nlaka’pamux, Okanagan and Secwepemc First Nations live in the Thompson Okanagan area; while the Ktunaxa inhabit the rugged region of the Kootenay Rockies.
By choosing Indigenous-owned and operated tourism experiences, travelers share living languages, cultures and traditions, gaining understanding and creating more meaningful connections with people, land and wildlife. Here are six places where visitors can sample the many diverse Indigenous experiences on offer in British Columbia.