Investment supports Indigenous art and culture

News release

Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association receives funding to promote over 200 Indigenous artisans through entrepreneurial partnership

December 21, 2018 – Kelowna, British Columbia – Western Economic Diversification Canada

Promoting authentic Indigenous art and culture contributes to the vitality of Indigenous communities and builds a more inclusive economy. As Indigenous tourism increases in popularity, connecting Indigenous artisans with new and growing markets helps foster economic growth and entrepreneurship in communities, while preserving Indigenous culture for future generations.

That is why the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada today announced a federal investment in the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association’s (TOTA) Indigenous Artisan Trails Initiative (IArt). TOTA will receive $156,000 to launch a mobile and online retail model to promote authentic Indigenous art and culture at tourist destinations in British Columbia.

The mobile retail unit will begin touring along Route 97 between Vernon and Osoyoos, appearing at wineries, festivals and tourism events in summer 2019. By investing in organizations like TOTA, the Government of Canada is supporting the work of over 200 artisans, raising awareness of Thompson Okanagan Indigenous peoples, and creating economic opportunities for these communities.


“Today we highlight our government’s commitment to preserving, revitalizing and strengthening Indigenous language and culture through this innovative marketing project. TOTA’s mobile artisan unit is a unique way to connect authentic Indigenous history with Canadians and visitors to Canada, while building a more inclusive economy.”

- The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada

“The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association has once again punched above its weight and been awarded the prestigious World’s Responsible Tourism Award for 2018.  The funding provided through Western Economic Diversification recognizes the value the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association has in our region and within our Indigenous artisan community.  Funding like this reinforces our government’s commitment to arts and culture and I look forward to seeing the Indigenous Artisan Trails retail store at many of our community’s events.”

- Stephen Fuhr, CD, Member of Parliament for Kelowna-Lake Country

“The Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association (TOTA) through the IArt Initiative believes there is not only a tremendous opportunity for our Indigenous Communities to tell their Authentic Interior Salish Story through dance, song, and interpretation as part of this initiative but importantly to see the economic benefits from the sale of locally handcrafted artwork. We are thrilled to be able to work closely with Western Economic Diversification Canada on this project which we know will have long-term benefits to our regions Indigenous Communities."

- Glenn Mandziuk, CEO, Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association

Quick facts

  • TOTA is a not-for-profit society governed by the BC Societies Act. Its elected Board of Directors represents local business and community tourism interests, working under the Super, Natural British Columbia brand. Its mandate includes destination development and marketing.

  • Canadian gift shops and galleries sell more than $100 million in Indigenous art and giftware, but only 20% is designed or produced by Indigenous people in Canada.

  • Route 97 connects tourism experiences in the Thompson Okanagan region of British Columbia and North Central Washington.

Associated links


Amanda Costa
A/Regional Communications Manager
Western Economic Diversification Canada

Ellen Walker-Matthews
Vice President Destination and Industry Development
250 809 9290

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