July 4, 2023
Indigenous Tourism: Embracing Reconciliation through the ʔiisaak Pledge in Tla-o-qui-aht Lands
By Rachel Leghissa
As you plan your visit to the captivating Tofino region on Vancouver Island, it is essential to understand the significance of Indigenous Tourism and its role in fostering reconciliation. Amidst the sprawling beaches, diverse wildlife, and ancient forests, it is crucial to recognize that you are entering a land that has been inhabited by the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation since time immemorial. By embracing the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks’ ʔiisaak Pledge, you can practice awareness, gratitude, and respect as a guest within their ancestral territory.
The Essence of the ʔiisaak Pledge:
The ʔiisaak Pledge, meaning “respect” in the Tla-o-qui-aht language, embodies the core teachings and principles of the land. This pledge is not a mere checklist but a transformative journey of understanding and connection. Joe Martin, Tla-o-qui-aht’s Master Carver, explains that ʔiisaak is a teaching passed down through generations, beginning with the creation of life and continuing until death.
Cultivating Awareness and Connection:
By undertaking the ʔiisaak Pledge, you embark on a path of heightened awareness, recognizing the intricate relationship between people and the land they inhabit. This pledge invites you to understand the profound connection between humans, the territory’s land, and its waters. It sheds light on the power and magnificence of the natural world, emphasizing the joint responsibility of the community, including visitors, to ensure the land’s health and wellbeing.
Enriching Your Experience:
Embracing the ʔiisaak Pledge inherently enhances your experience of the Tofino region. By committing to respect and care for the land, you become an active participant in preserving its integrity. This journey allows you to appreciate the profound wisdom embedded within the Tla-o-qui-aht way of life, as well as the importance of coexistence with the diverse beings that share the land.
Within the ʔiisaak Pledge lies an opportunity to express gratitude. Acknowledging the vital role played by the Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht nations in designating Clayoquot Sound as a UNESCO Biosphere Region is paramount. Their efforts halted deforestation and preserved the region’s pristine nature. It is essential to understand that the preservation of this land is rooted in its recognition as the home of the Tla-o-qui-aht and Ahousaht nations.
An Invitation to Transformation:
Access to Indigenous territories, including Tla-o-qui-aht lands, is not an inherent privilege but a gracious invitation extended to visitors. By signing the ʔiisaak Pledge, you commit to changing the way you engage with the land and its people as a guest. It is an opportunity to foster a greater understanding and respect for the laws and custodianship of Indigenous communities, contributing to the larger context of Reconciliation in Canada and beyond.
Taking the ʔiisaak Pledge:
To embark on this transformative journey, visit the Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks’ website here before your trip and take the ʔiisaak Pledge. By aligning your actions with your commitment during your stay, you actively participate in promoting reconciliation, cultural preservation, and sustainable tourism practices.
Indigenous tourism is a powerful platform for reconciliation, offering an opportunity to learn, appreciate, and respect the ancestral lands and cultures of Indigenous peoples. By embracing the ʔiisaak Pledge in Tla-o-qui-aht territory, you contribute to a more inclusive and harmonious relationship between visitors and Indigenous communities. Let us tread this path of awareness, gratitude, and respect, forging a brighter future founded on mutual understanding and appreciation for the rightful stewards of the land.