World’s largest Indigenous tourism conference hits Kelowna

Dancers entering the hall at the Delta Grand Hotel during the grand entry procession of the International Indigenous Tourism Conference on Nov. 13. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran and city councillor Gail Given carrying the Canadian and B.C. flags during the grand entry procession of the International Indigenous Tourism Conference on Nov. 13. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Hand drummers playing a welcome song during the grand entry procession of the International Indigenous Tourism Conference on Nov. 13. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)
Recently elected Westbank First Nation Chief Christopher Derickson speaking during the official grand opening of the International Indigenous Tourism Conference on Nov. 13. (Michael Rodriguez - Kelowna Capital News)

The official grand opening of the 2019 International Indigenous Tourism Conference (IITC) was held on Wednesday morning, bringing the largest conference of its kind in the world to Kelowna.

The event featured three days of inspiring stories and transformational experiences in an attempt to unite the tourism industry.

This year’s conference theme is “Inspire. Transform. Unite. Accelerating Indigenous tourism growth.”

“I think this is an amazing opportunity to bring together people from across the nation, across the continent and — from what I understand — around the world to discuss something that’s very important,” said Westbank First Nation Chief Chris Derickson.

“We need to remain authentic to who we are — what our culture is, what our land teaches us, what our language teaches us — and not try to be something that somebody from some other country wants us to be or thinks we should be as Indigenous people. If we can keep that at the heart of Indigenous tourism, we can keep the experience authentic.”

The opening procession featured dancers and drummers from the host nations, Syilx, Nlakápamux and Secwépemc, in a showcase of Okanagan culture to those in attendance.

“They’re the beauty of our community,” said Jordan Coble a council member for Westbank First Nation.

“They’ve served as that reminder for us to take pride in what we do, take pride in how we do it and to dance like everybody’s watching.”

The event continues throughout Wednesday and Thursday, bringing several keynote speakers including Jordin Tootoo, the first Inuk player in the NHL and founder of the Team Tootoo Foundation.

The conference concludes on Thursday evening with the national and regional Indigenous Tourism Awards Gala, at 6:30 p.m.

READ MORE: Westbank First Nation unveils new $9 million renovated school

READ MORE: Christopher Derickson outlines his priorities as newly elected Westbank First Nation chief


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