10 gifts and experiences by Indigenous creators to awaken the holiday spirit

'Tis the season to be thoughtful.

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre by Andrew Strain

Credit: Andrew Strain. Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre

‘Tis the season to be thoughtful

Winter is coming, and with it, the season of giving (and receiving). Not a bad time to think about how we can make someone’s day with mindful purchases and maybe even learn a thing or two along the way. 

Following Canada’s second National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Brenda Baptiste, chair of Indigenous Tourism British Columbia, encouraged “contributing to reconciliation through gifting educational experiences and presents with a special meaning, history and culture tied to it” in a release.

So, before the weather outside turns frightful, here are the ITBC’s suggestions for Indigenous-made gifts and experiences to help you kick off the upcoming holiday season.

Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre (Osoyoos)

Explore educational exhibits of traditional foods, medicines and technology on the land of the Sylix People of the Okanagan Nation. This 1,600-acre desert conservation area is one of Canada’s most endangered places. On a mission to “restore the great divide of First Nations youth and their culture,” admission to the Centre is $16 for adults and $12 for children.

Nk’Mip CellarsNk’Mip Cellars

Nk’Mip Cellars (Osoyoos)

A five-hour drive from Vancouver may seem like too long a trip for some primo vino, but changing leaves call for the warmth of award-winning sips from the first Indigenous-owned winery in North America. Private tours and tasting experiences make estate winemaker (and Osoyoos Indian Band member) Justin Hall’s creations nothing short of a gourmet experience, starting at $75. 

Spirit Bear CoffeeSpirit Bear Coffee

Spirit Bear Coffee Company (Coquitlam)

Ten years ago, this company was told it would never survive. Now its products are in over 600 locations across the country. Spirit Bear Coffee brews the legend of the Raven and Spirit Bear into each cup using organic and fair trade beans, starting from $18.

Salmon N BannockSalmon N Bannock

Salmon N’ Bannock (Vancouver)

You can’t go wrong with generations-old recipes. In fact, co-founder and owner Inez Cook, a member of the Nuxalk Nation in Bella Coola, always knew she would run a restaurant. In line with First Nations traditions, this is a gathering place to focus on the people and the food (including the establishment’s signature bannock and bison pot roast), with samplers starting from $20.

Rain WellnessRain Wellness

Rain Wellness (Vernon)

As 2022 comes to a close, we all deserve a little pampering for surviving it. To disconnect and relax, you can try massage therapy (or the “full body cleansing” Sweat Lodge Ceremony) at Rain Wellness, where sessions start at $135 for 60 minutes. 

Bill Reid GalleryBill Reid Gallery

Bill Reid Gallery (Vancouver)

Established by the Bill Reid Foundation in 2008 (an organization created to honour the famous Haida artist), this public gallery displays Indigenous art, clothing and jewelry inspired by the Northwest Coast. Admission is $13 for adults and free for children. 

West Coast WildflowersWest Coast Wildflowers

West Coast Wildflowers (Campbell River)

Owner Alissa Assu, who is part of the Laksamshu (Fireweed and Owl) Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, launched her e-commerce shop during the pandemic to feature women in business as well as Indigenous small businesses. Retail therapy here will get you clothing, jewelry, home decor, artwork and more, with sale items starting as low as $3. 

Great Bear Essential OilsGreat Bear Essential Oils

Great Bear Essential Oils (Great Bear Rainforest)

With stronger winds comes closed windows and stuffy indoors. Great Bear is a social enterprise supported by the Coastal First Nations, a nonprofit alliance of eight First Nations in B.C., creating essential oil blends from harvested conifer needles. Refresh your space with these goodies, which start from $20. 

Ay Lelum fleece tunicAy Lelum

Ay Lelum (Nanaimo)

You might’ve spotted Ay Lelum looks in Vogue Italia or the Vancouver Fashion Week runway already. Committed to channeling Coast Salish art and culture into fashion, this multigenerational brand offers designs in sizes XS to 5XL, starting at $95. 

Totem Design HouseTotem Design House

Totem Design House (Courtenay)

Haida and Cree siblings Erin and Jesse Brillon hail from a commercial fishing family and were close family friends with the aforementioned Bill Reid. Inspired by his work and Northwest Coast art, the siblings started this apparel and jewelry line to celebrate their upbringing. Gift items like the Feather Earrings are available in 11 colors, starting from $70.