Truth and Reconciliation: Moving Beyond the Land Acknowledgement

Contributed by: GreenStep Solutions
Image Credit: Sncewips Heritage Museum

Over the past several years, land acknowledgements have become an important step towards reconciliation within the tourism sector. At the 2023 IMPACT Conference, Greg Hopf of
Moccasin Trails, encouraged the industry to continue its journey of truth and reconciliation by taking additional steps beyond the land acknowledgement, specifically by building real relationships with local Indigenous nations and communities, and by supporting local Indigenous businesses. 

Greg challenged us by asking, “Do you know the Indigenous communities of your area? Do you have a relationship with them?…Can you pick up the phone and call them? Do you have local Indigenous businesses in your supply chain?”

These questions hit home at GreenStep, and our team of settlers and newcomers to Canada took it to heart. While we still have much work to do, and so much more to learn, we hope that our story and the ideas below encourage and inspire your tourism business, organization, or destination to start or continue your own journey of truth and reconciliation.

Reaching Out

Taking Greg’s challenge quite literally, our first step at GreenStep was to pick up the phone and call the local Westbank First Nation office. It took some back and forth, and after navigating through who would be the best person to speak with, we arranged a video conference. 

We shared that GreenStep was seeking opportunities to learn more about the community. Several ideas were discussed, and we left the conversation feeling like we had opened up a line of communication that hadn’t existed before, which felt like a good first step. 

One of the suggestions was that we visit the local Sncewips Heritage Museum. So, we recently booked a guided tour and visited the museum. Our guide filled our morning with curiosity, awe, laughter, sadness, and hope as the team learned about the land on which we live and work from a Sqilxʷ/Sylix (Okanagan) perspective. 

After the museum, we visited the Kekuli Cafe, a local and Indigenous-owned bannock restaurant with a “modern contemporary twist, First Nations style!” The overall experience of the day was extremely well received by our team and served as an important step for all of us in continuing our individual and business conversations and journeys toward truth and reconciliation.

Leaning In

Many organizations may have recently participated in activities around the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th, honouring those who were impacted by the tragic and painful history of the residential school system. This includes Orange Shirt Day, which aims to grow awareness of the individual, family and community intergenerational impacts of Residential Schools.

As stated on the Orange Shirt Day website, “Truth and Reconciliation is a year-round commitment,” and we are committed to continuing our own journey and sharing it with our peers as we learn and grow together. From our own experience, we have found the following activities to be incredibly important and would offer these as some steps others may wish to take: 

  • Reach out to your the local First Nation community to begin opening the lines of communication and dialogue 
  • Visit a local First Nation museum or cultural centre with your team, and if possible, hire an Indigenous tour guide or cultural interpreter to walk you through the experience so that you may learn from someone with roots or lived experience in that culture
  • Make a donation or purchase from the museum or cultural centre gift shop to support the Indigenous economy
  • Treat your team to a meal at an Indigenous-owned restaurant to experience the flavours of the local culture
  • Consider how you can support more Indigenous businesses and entrepreneurs within your community
  • Join a local, provincial or national Indigenous tourism organization and attend their events
  • Learn and use traditional place names in the traditional language
  • Find which First Nations territories are in your region via the Native Land Digital map
  • Attend and promote public events hosted by local First Nations and communities
  • Learn more about the 94 Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action 
  • Learn more about the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Involving guests and visitors

In addition to your own journey, there are many opportunities to support the inclusion of Indigenous cultural heritage in guest and visitor experiences. The Sustainable Tourism Score is available free online for any tourism business or destination to assess their sustainability performance and includes several best practice examples, which have been formally recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Some of these include: 

  • Employing Indigenous youth, elders, guides, or interpreters in your business or organization 
  • Connecting guests with local interpreters or experiences that can present the heritage and culture in an authentic and traditional manner
  • Creating informal connections with local Indigenous community(ies), such as building and maintaining relationships, seeking permission to share information, etc.
  • Creating formal, collaborative partnerships or business relationships within the local Indigenous community 
  • Supporting local Indigenous entrepreneurs by featuring authentic local Indigenous arts and crafts and/or cuisine in some aspect(s) of business operations
  • Providing information about public Indigenous cultural events/festivals in the community
  • Respecting the intellectual property rights of local communities

If you wish to continue your learning and exploring beyond these ideas, there are so many opportunities to advance your understanding and get engaged. In addition to the links shared in the article, below are some additional resources that you may wish to explore.  


GreenStep helps tourism businesses and destinations to measure, improve, and get certified for their climate action and sustainability performance. Book a free consultation to learn more.