By Chadd Cawson
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
People travel far and wide to enjoy recreation in the beautiful Columbia Valley. Now, both travellers and locals will be able to gain a better understanding of Indigenous knowledge of how the mountains, waterways (such as the Kootenay and Columbia River), and the magnificent Hoodoos were formed. The significance of this can be taken in from a local Ktunaxa perspective through the #Ktunaxahomelands Campaign, which officially launched on May 3.
“I noticed most of my life that our nation was really invisible in our own homelands,” says Janice Alpine, leader of the Ktunaxa Regional Branding Initiative and tourism liaison for the broader region that encompasses the Ktunaxa homelands. “When I would travel for business conferences, I was welcomed. I was informed on whose homeland I was entering. When I returned to my own homelands, the same acknowledgement was not there, and I knew this had to be fixed. So, I started developing a Ktunaxa Regional Branding Initiative to support the promotion of the region and, in the branding of this region, it was realized that the Ktunaxa people were missing a huge component.”
After the idea came about in 2017, Alpine partnered up with Kootenay Rockies Tourism to develop an audit used when approaching different visitor centres, chamber offices, museums, and other tourism operators to see what information they had on the Ktunaxa First Nation. “People who work in tourism like visitor centers are not always clear on who the first people were and the history of the land, and Janice has been making that effort to educate for years,” says Kristy Jahn-Smith the Executive Director for Cranbrook Tourism. “We saw an opportunity as the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) on behalf of the community to promote the Ktunaxa homelands as a place for visitors. Cranbrook Tourism, as well as others across the region, felt there was a bit of a disconnect as we discovered more visitors were interested in the history of the Indigenous communities of the area, but we felt we didn’t have all the tools and information to share those stories with them.”
Now with this being just the beginning through the #Ktunaxahomelands Campaign, visitors can read stories and have access to recommended itineraries, while watching three videos showcasing different aspects of these #Ktunaxahomelands on the ZenSeekers website. “When our visitors come into our region, they ask two questions. They ask what tribe is here and what they used this land for, and that means the place where they are standing so we answer those questions and it also reminds our locals the Ktunaxa creations are what made the landscape,” says Alpine. “It reminds them this is what our mountains, and water systems represent as well as the formations in the land such as the Hoodoos. It’s all part of our creation.”
A small glimpse of what is now available to the public can be seen at https://www.zenseekers.com/expedition/ktunaxahomelands. With much more to come in the future work will continue with Ktunaxa businesses and their artisans to develop authentic Ktunaxa products used to inform travellers of the land’s rich history.