The ecological Park, Alert Bay photo courtesy of Barbara Bianci , Switzerland
Talking Totem Tours is British Columbia's leading specialist in self-guided cultural tours and offers a wide variety of Aboriginal tours with step-in guides and escorts.
A self-guided vacation is a fully organized travel package that combines the freedom of traveling on your own with meticulously planned routes and support when needed. It's a sophisticated style of travel for independent travelers.
We book the hotels, arrange the local food meals, and hand you the detailed route notes, maps, and behind-the-scenes support. Upon arrival at your destination, our local expert greets you and provides orientation.
You are welcome to use the information from this section to plan your Private Journey and have us customize an itinerary for you, or do a bit of both!
Look through any of our tours or destinations and you’ll read about incredible people carrying on their traditions and cultures in pristine nature all throughout BC.
On a Talking Totem Tours Private Journey, you’ll meet one-on-one with these dynamic people, enjoy their insights and learn about their culture, firsthand.
Talking Totem Tours can provide a rich cultural immersion experience while you are visiting BC as well as assist in planning your eco-adventure.
What does a trip cost?
Less than you'd expect. Our experience in self-guided travel has resulted in rewarding relationships over the years with our hand-picked accommodations, restaurants, wildlife and cultural tour suppliers. Our regular return customers ensure that your holiday needs are available for much less than you'd pay booking it yourself.
Private Journeys self-guided tours have a comprehensive collection of First Nations cultural activities, eco tours and restaurants serving fresh locally grown food in British Columbia, Canada.
The purpose of Talking Totem Tours is to promote the First Nation tour suppliers of British Columbia and support their cultural activities and environmental efforts. This means to work with eco-tour operators, environmental organizations and industry partners who support sustainable tourism.
Talking Totem Tours has always utilized the abundance of sustainable tour products and services available in British Columbia and remains committed to that principle today by packaging with local services and products sourced from BC growers and suppliers.
We are privileged to have access to the communities and cultural activities listed in this e-guide.
Our Private Journeys self-guided tours span the coast of British Columbia from Whistler to the Queen Charlotte Islands, and each itinerary was designed to give you the maximum opportunity to explore the region, its people, and its wildlife.
In consultation with our network of First Nation experts, we've crafted a collection of Aboriginal sites to visit that capture the unique character of each place.
Our accommodations go beyond just comfort: they are an important part of the road-trip experience. We select accommodations that combine luxury and location with the local flavor of a place with many of the lodges located in remote areas. The First Nations businesses are in some of British Columbia's most remote nature and in the most spectacular cities.
Each Private Journey self-guided cultural tour has departures throughout the year, allowing you to choose the dates that work best for you. So that you can tailor the trip to suit your interests, we’ve kept our itineraries flexible and built in options wherever possible. And day-to-day, we’ve made sure to balance guided excursions with free time so that you can set out on your own and relish the spontaneity of exploration.
Talking Totem Tours Private Journeys are geared for independent travelers who wish to explore on their own rather than in a group—and still get access to our network of experts.
On your Private Journey, you’ll be accompanied by excellent local guides who know their regions intimately. Because Talking Totem Tours name opens doors in the communities, you’ll have access to special events and research sites, enjoy private visits with our contacts in the region, and get to know local people and learn about their daily life.
Carefully selected local guides are ready to introduce you to their culture and their territory, and our contacts in the First Nation communities look forward to sharing their insights with you. And you’ll find a warm welcome wherever you go.
You’ll also gain a new perspective by meeting local people, whether they’re artists, craftspeople, Elders, or dancers eager to introduce you to their culture. Meet a master carver in Alert Bay, visit the workshop of a traditional weaver in Chilliwack, and enjoy legendary First Nations hospitality— and traditional delicacies—at a feast in a family home in Chehalis.
Choose any of the exciting cultural activities on the pages that follow, select the week you’d like to travel, and decide who you’d like to take with you.
Either self guide or we can help arrange for any of your responsible transportation and top accommodations wherever you go, whether it’s an eco-lodge, pit house or luxury hotel. Your transportation from site to site—by car, boat, ferries, bus, train, water taxi or even floatplane—can be arranged.
To help you prepare for your trip before you leave, you’ll receive carefully selected materials—including books, maps, and/or videos—that provide valuable background information.
Courtesy of Aboriginal Tourism of British Columbia
British Columbia's First Nations by Region
Within British Columbia, there are 198 First Nations, more than in any other province or territory in Canada. Each has their own traditions, history, heritage, language and art. The following provides an overview of some of the First Nations communities in BC.
Vancouver Coast & Mountains
This is the most populated region of the province, with stunning geography ranging from oceans to mountains, and includes temperate rainforests, alpine peaks, lakes, fjords and fertile valley delta lands. This region is home to Vancouver, British Columbia's largest city and Whistler, a world-renowned year-round resort. In 2010, both destinations will play hosts to the world during the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Coast Salish, one of the largest First Nations in the province, inhabits the entire region. The following are related groups within the Coast Salish family.
• The Squamish Nation is comprised of Salish peoples who are descendants of the aboriginal peoples who lived in the present day greater Vancouver area, Gibson's landing and Squamish River watershed. Squamish means "Mother of Wind" or "Birthplace of the Winds" in the Coast Salish language.
• Sto:Lo means "People of the River." Their traditional territory includes the Fraser Valley, much of the Lower Mainland and the Harrison Lake watershed. As their name implies, it is a culture rich in fishing traditions. The Sto:Lo are still skilled fishers, and they still prepare the salmon in the ways of their forefathers, either wind drying, smoking, or salting. The rivers were rich in sturgeon and eulachon, and the surrounding lands were plentiful in larger game so, as with the coastal regions, basic essentials were easily attainable, leaving time to foster a culture rich in art and storytelling.
• The Tsleil-Waututh are Coast Salish people who speak the down-river dialect of the Halkomelem language. Today, Tsleil-Waututh First Nation members live in a community located on the north shore of Burrard Inlet, in North Vancouver. Prior to contact with Europeans, oral history tells us the Tsleil-Waututh numbered over 10,000 people, in an area that reached from the Fraser River in the south to near Whistler in the north. The heart of Tsleil-Waututh culture involved a complex cycle of food gathering, hunting, and spiritual and cultural activities.
• The St'át'imc First Nations, which is composed of 11 different communities, has a traditional territorial range from from Port Douglas in the south to Pavilion in the north. They were traditionally hunter gatherers who followed the game they sought, living in pit houses in the winter and bark shingled lean-tos in the summer. Much of their travel was by canoe, and they built different styles for different conditions, one for traveling up river, another wider one for carrying game, and a third heavier one for the lakes. Clothing was made from animal skins for winter, and woven cedar for summer.
• The Lil'Wat are the largest of the St'át'imc First Nation communities, with a traditional territory situated between Squamish and Lillooet. They were hunter gatherers who followed the game they sought, living in pit houses in the winter and bark shingled lean-tos in the summer. Much of their travel was by canoe, and they built different styles for different conditions, one for traveling up river, another wider one for carrying game, and a third heavier one for the lakes. Clothing was made from animal skins for winter, and woven cedar for summer.
The housing styles for First Nations communities in this region were varied, from longhouses (large square wooden structures, usually built along the ocean or river) to pit houses (housing built into the hillside) which could easily be hidden to protect from enemy tribes and was naturally insulated during extremely hot or cold weather. Temperatures were relatively mild, fish was plentiful, and there were many larger animals to hunt for meat. Travel and trade followed river routes.
The Lil'wat have partnered with the Squamish to build a world-class Cultural Centre in the heart of Whistler, British Columbia's world-class resort, situated 2 hours north of Vancouver. Opened June 21st in 2008, the Centre celebrates the joint history of the Squamish and the Lil'wat Nations by showcasing their history, creative works, and cultures. It is a two-story complex that includes an interpretive centre, theatre, eco-walk, gift shop, arts and crafts, a high-end traditional foods restaurant and cafeteria. The Centre enables both nations to share their culture with the world and invite visitors to 2010 Olympics to enjoy First Nations hospitality.
British Columbia, the most western province in Canada, is a land bigger than many countries, a land rich in resources. From the ocean shores on the west coast, to the vast forests, abundant lakes and rivers, fertile valleys, rolling grasslands and majestic mountain ranges throughout, the First Nations we work with have traditional values around land and respect. They believe this land has given them all that they have needed from the time that they were breathed into being. Their ancestors have told told them it will always be so if they treat it with respect.
The Aboriginal way of life has been shaped by the land, climate and creatures of their home territory. The lands, oceans, and rivers gave abundantly, feeding and clothing their people. They stepped lightly on the land and took only what was needed. Along the coast, cedar and salmon gave them canoes, homes, clothing and plentiful food. Further inland, they made their homes in the earth or from the skins of larger animals. They gathered herbs and vegetables from their land and hunted and fished to feed their families.
Today, they continue to share a common respect for the land and its creatures and are teaching all of our children to be respectful of the earth and its inhabitants and to honour their First Nations traditions and culture.
CONTACT US FOR MORE INFORMATION
With our tour operator discounts packages are comparable in money with booking your own events, transportation and accommocations yourself