The TreadRight Foundation’s newest initiative is in partnership with the KARI Foundation in Sydney, Australia. Sarain Fox, Partner of The TreadRight Foundation and ambassador to the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School talks about the project and why it’s relevant for clients in this edition of Take Five, marking National Indigenous Peoples Day today, June 21.
1. We understand that the TreadRight Foundation is launching a brand-new cross-cultural sustainability program. What can you tell us about it?
“The TreadRight Foundation’s newest initiative is in partnership with the KARI Foundation in Sydney (Australia) and I am so proud to be a part of it. The KARI Foundation is one of Australia’s leading Aboriginal service providers and this new cross-cultural arts program will showcase to clients travelling with some of The Travel Corporation’s family of brands – TreadRight was created as a joint initiative with The Travel Corporation – an authentic cultural experience when travelling on an Australian itinerary that visits Sydney. Clients will have an opportunity to join in on a class where they will be taught by KARI’s in-house Indigenous artists, take part in dot painting boomerang classes, and learn about the symbolism entwined in Aboriginal culture.
“This will be an experience that allows for a better understanding and appreciation for the community and uses the power of Indigenous crafts and art to connect travellers to unique and authentic experiences.
“The project supports Sydney’s Aboriginal community by offering them an opportunity for economic self-determination whereby TreadRight’s grant will provide employment for KARI staff and artisans.
“I am excited that Contiki, the youth adventure travel company exclusively for 18 to 35 year-old’s (like myself), will be the first to offer this immersive experience beginning in 2020 – with plans to roll this out to Trafalgar and AAT Kings (the leading guided holiday company providing a wide range of day tours, short breaks and guided holidays in Australia and New Zealand) in the future.
“To me, this initiative will directly impact the ways in which travellers, agents and their clients alike, see and interact with the Indigenous population. Creating a program where local artisans and cultural practitioners can share their own stories and arts forms, while creating vital economic freedom with the sale of the traditional pieces. But this represents much more than an arts program. This will help to support the revitalization and sharing of Aboriginal culture. Inner city Aboriginal people often have less access to their own culture. By supporting a program that allows young leaders in the community to teach and share not only amongst their own but with a global community, will allow for new perspectives and valuable access to meaningful engagement for travellers and an opportunity to learn and be fully immersed in culture.”
2. How are you involved?
“I am proud to be The TreadRight Foundation’s newest Partner, representing their ‘People’ pillar – one of three pillars in which they work to #MakeTravelMatter by safeguarding the people, wildlife and planet for generations to come. As an ever-curious explorer, I am always looking for ways to connect with other Indigenous populations around the world.
“I have been an ambassador for the foundation’s first ever ‘People’ project in North America, The Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School, which is based in Toronto at the Bata Shoe Museum. TreadRight has supported the school since its inception in Toronto by helping to support the weekly classes that focus on moccasin and mukluk making and valuable cross-cultural dialogue between Indigenous and settler youth.
“For the past three years, students from all walks of life have graduated with knowledge that for many Indigenous youth, have been passed down from their ancestors. But much like the new Australian initiative, the school represents much more than just a beading class. Bead by bead, stich by stich, students are reconnecting with thousands of years of tradition and fighting for cultural resilience.
“The Toronto school has been so successful that the TreadRight team and I were able to take some of the learnings from the Canadian program and bring them to our Indigenous brothers and sisters in Australia to see how it can benefit their communities. As a result, the new program in Sydney was modelled after the program in Toronto. Talk about a true ‘nation to nation’ initiative!”
3. You just got back from a Contiki trip to the Outback where you met with a local Aboriginal family. What are your post-trip impressions?
“I had my first-ever Contiki experience on their 9-day Outback Adventure small group trek that started in Darwin and spent three nights in Uluru – a sacred site that I visited for the first time and one that I’ve always dreamt of visiting.
“During the trip through the Northern Territory, I had the joy of spending the day at the Pudakul Cultural Center – an Aboriginal-owned family business offering immersive experiences on their culture – where Graham and Lynette are preserving and sharing their culture and sharing it with the world.
“What was great is that this is an ‘included experience’ with Contiki, meaning young clients will have the opportunity to really learn and connect with the local community. This is the kind of meaningful, immersive travel that I love. I believe that part of creating better communities, even global communities, is letting the original locals speak for themselves. As I always like to say: Nothing about us. Without us.”
4. You’re a Canadian Indigenous activist, actor, artist, TV presenter and TreadRight partner. What similarities / differences did you see between Australia’s and Canada’s Indigenous experiences?
“The Canadian Indigenous experience is shockingly similar to that of Australia, but can we actually be that similar having been colonized by the same source? The eradication of language, culture, land and resources has allowed for many of the same socio-economic problems on both lands. On the other hand, where we are at in terms of the reclamation and revitalization of our communities is also very different.
“However, one thing that binds both nations together is their young people rising up and changing our collective future. I think for both populations, it’s this new movement of reclamation that is creating so much hope within the community.”
5. What can travel agents tell their clients about how this initiative will trickle down to impact their trips with The Travel Corporation?
“In three words: Make Travel Matter. Travel agents are the ones on the frontlines helping their clients create their dream vacation, so they have the power to encourage Canadians to truly make a difference.
“Travel agents can help their clients make travel matter by providing them with options of travel companies that don’t only just offer feel good stories that are told during the trip, but experiences which will allow them to gain a new perspective from the original people who know the history, songs, dances, and art best.
“Don’t shy away from recommending authentic Indigenous experiences to your clients. The Travel Corporation’s family of brands offer a multitude of meaningful and immersive Aboriginal experiences, such as the program in Australia with Contiki, learning about the significance of the haka to the Māori in New Zealand with Trafalgar, meeting with the Sami who are the indigenous people of Scandinavia on Insight Vacations or even right here at home at the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural centre learning about the Sk̲wxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation, Coast Salish) and Líl̓wat7ul (Lil’wat Nation, Interior Salish) nations of B.C. with Luxury Gold.
“However, when recommending any travel experience, we should always be aware of the negative or positive impact we can cause. The impact shouldn’t only just be about the sharing and preservation of knowledge, we should also aim to create micro-economies and support for Aboriginal artists as well. Our partnership with The TreadRight and KARI Foundations in Australia, and at the Manitobah Mukluks Storyboot School in Canada, are just some of the many examples of how we can all #MakeTravelMatter.”