Welcome to the second chapter of our Wild Pledge series, where we’ll delve into thoughtful ways of engaging with and uplifting the local cultures, traditions, and heritages that define Vancouver Island’s vibrant communities. Often, our most meaningful travel experiences stem from the moments we engage with locals; the absorbing stories, the age-old customs, and the nuggets of wisdom we gather. But let’s not forget, the exchange must be a two-way street; while we take away enriching experiences, it’s crucial that we leave behind respect, understanding, and a positive impact on the communities we have the privilege of visiting. Here, we’ll share how to actively appreciate, learn from, and respect the rich tapestry of varying cultures and lifestyles that make Northern Vancouver Island such an unforgettable destination.
Who are the locals?
Throughout your Northern Vancouver Island adventures, you will encounter a unique blend of residents that infuse the region with charm and diversity. These include:
Located on the traditional territory of the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw (pronounced: KWOK-wok-ya-wokw) People, Vancouver Island North is home to 12 prominent Indigenous Nations. Stewards of this land since time immemorial, the Kwakwa̱ka̱ʼwakw Peoples have built a vibrant culture, deeply rooted in an appreciation for the natural environment. This is celebrated and unified through songs, stories, dances, ceremonial objects, and potlatching. Discover, engage, and connect with Indigenous histories and contemporary cultures by visiting Vancouver Island North’s cultural centers, art galleries, and museums, or elevate your experience by booking an Indigenous-owned/operated accommodation or experience.
Early European pioneers have left a lasting influence on Vancouver Island, visible through the architectural styles, preserved heritage buildings, quaint village towns, and captivating maritime stories that continue to be cherished today. Immerse yourself in the Island’s early settler heritage by exploring charming communities such as Alert Bay and Telegraph Cove. Nearby cultural centers and museums offer a multi-dimensional view of early European influence that acknowledges the past and the commitment to learn from it as an act of Reconciliation.
As the allure of the island life has grown, so too has the influx of other settlers from various parts of the world, who bring with them many different cultures, cuisines, and ways of life. These are the artists, the nature enthusiasts, the solitude seekers, and the past tourists who fell in love with Vancouver Island’s wild landscapes and friendly people. Discover the profound impact these locals have made on the island as you meander through neighbourhood shops, art galleries, inviting coffee shops, and diverse drink and dining establishments. Each offers a distinct flavour of the diverse cultures that have become interwoven into the fabric of Vancouver Island.
Practical Examples and Tips to Respectfully Celebrate Local Cultures, Traditions, & Heritages.
Do your research
Before visiting any community or establishing contact with a local business, do your due diligence. Understand the different protocols or customs they follow, and consider the narrative. Ask yourself: who benefits from your visit? Are you contributing to cultural preservation or empowering local families?
Lead with curiosity
When interacting with locals, let curiosity guide you and don’t be afraid to ask questions. This displays your interest and eagerness to learn from them directly which leads to a deeper understanding and shows respect. When it comes to Indigenous communities specifically, kindly ask for common names and pronunciations (this is actually polite and encouraged).
Look, but don’t touch
Just as our Leave No Trace blog taught us to admire nature without disturbing it, cultural and historical structures, artifacts, and sacred sites, similarly, should not be touched. Unless invited, differing cultures from your own are to be observed and appreciated from a distance. Avoid physical contact, however well-intentioned it may be, as it could lead to unintentional damage or be perceived as disrespect towards the items or spaces that hold deep meaning for the local communities.
Leave biases at home
Visiting a new place means opening up to new experiences, attitudes, and practices that may differ significantly from your own. It’s essential to leave any biases or preconceived notions at home to truly appreciate the diversity of the local cultures and to learn from them directly.
Always be mindful when taking photos during your travels. Ask for permission, especially when taking photos of local people or sensitive sites. Respecting people’s privacy and the sanctity of cultural sites is critical.
Cultural Appreciation, not Appropriation.
Remember that local customs, attire, and traditions are deeply personal and significant to the communities that created them. While it’s wonderful to appreciate these aspects, be wary of crossing the line into appropriation. Always show respect and avoid using cultural elements in a demeaning way. If you’re unsure of what is appropriate, here is a checklist of what to ask yourself: Do you understand the significance of this? Are you honouring this culture or simply imitating it? Are you perpetuating a stereotype that might be hurtful to someone who belongs to this culture? Were you invited to interact with this culture in this way?
participate but respect boundaries
Active participation can be a powerful way to immerse yourself in a culture. However, it’s important to maintain respect for the boundaries established by the community or any individual, whether they are cultural, personal, or spatial. Remember to ask questions if you are unsure!
Throughout our Vancouver Island journeys, we have the power, with every interaction, every question asked, with every respect given, to uplift local cultures, traditions, and heritages. Whether it’s the deeply rooted Indigenous cultures, the historical pioneer heritages, or the vibrant hues added by newer residents or fellow travellers, each of us contributes uniquely to the cultural mosaic of Vancouver Island! In taking the Wild Pledge, we promise to travel not just with our feet, but also with our hearts and minds open to learn, respect, and celebrate the profound cultural experiences that await us. Don’t forget to check out our third post in the series, where we delve into wildlife and natural habitats, and continue sharing the journey with the hashtag #ForTheGoodOfOurWild.