Eva Nicholas: Empowering Indigenous Tourism through Creative Partnerships

January 31, 2024

In 2022, Pow Wow Pitch and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) launched the Creative Pitch Mini-Projects grant program to create a video series showcasing nine emerging Indigenous creative entrepreneurs, each of whom received $2,500 mini-grants to support Indigenous tourism businesses. 

In addition to the mini-grants, there was an opportunity to be awarded a $15,000 grant commission to undertake a large-scale project. The creative entrepreneur Eva Nicholas, Founder of Wabanaki Creations and Art, was the successful recipient and had the opportunity to learn and work alongside an Indigenous tourism business of her choosing. 

Over the past year, Eva has embarked on her large-scale project in collaboration with the Skye River Trail, which embodies the spirit of collaboration, cultural preservation, and entrepreneurial empowerment. With the grant, she was able to build a longhouse to preserve and revitalize a tradition that had been lost for over a century in her community. She also hosted a symposium uniting Indigenous artists from across Atlantic Canada to support them in building their businesses and thrive with their art. 

The Longhouse Project

Eva collaborated with Skye River Trail in We’koqma’q First Nation, Nova Scotia, on the longhouse project – a symbol of Indigenous heritage, resilience, ceremony, and community. 

This is one of the first longhouses in years to be built in the We’koqma’q community, this project highlights the importance of being able to gather in traditional spaces and the impact it has on community healing. 

Eva shared experiences from her journey, highlighting the guidance she received from the longhouse community in Fredericton, whose teachings and insights have been instrumental in navigating the challenges faced during the longhouse project, such as sourcing materials for construction, overcoming harsh weather and two hurricanes.

“Everything is a teaching,” said Eva, “Each step along the way with our longhouse has been a lesson, and each time we rebuild, the longhouse becomes stronger, and so does the community building it. It has been healing.” 

The longhouse project has also brought new opportunities to Skye River Trail, with other Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and communities coming to gather in the space for ceremony, knowledge sharing, and teaching circles. More importantly, it is a place for youth to learn their culture, traditions, and practices.

The Symposium Project 

In addition to the longhouse, in February 2023 at Sky River Trail, Eva used the ITAC Creative Pitch grant to launch a Symposium to unite 40 Indigenous artists from across Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia to learn about how to take their art and build thriving businesses. 

Eva worked closely with partners at Craft Nova Scotia and Mawi’Art to create a 100% Indigenous-led program that included training, knowledge sharing, and a focus on appropriate pricing and ways to access funding. 

“It was so successful that it is bringing new funders to support these artists,” said Eva, smiling about a new partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts. “These organizations have so far been unsuccessful in getting Indigenous artists to apply for their programs, and so when they saw how successful this was, they now want to get involved.”

When asked about her motivation to create and bring the Symposium to Skye River Trail, Eva shared that it was born from her own experience. 

“The saying about a starving artist is true,” said Eva. “Artists hustle and struggle. I wanted to let them know that ‘what you do is worth it, it is important, you are preserving your culture, and it is so meaningful’. I want other artists to know that what they are doing is worth more than what they are selling it for.”

Eva’s journey is a testament to the impact of the creative sector on tourism, bringing new opportunities not only to Skye River Trail and her community but also across Atlantic Canada. As she continues to grow this new sector of creativity and tourism, she invites others to explore and support these experiences, contributing to the enrichment, preservation, and prosperity of Indigenous communities.

Eva reflects on the success of her projects and shares that, “The opportunities that came out of this grant and building this longhouse were the seed for something that is hopefully going to be around for generations and generations.” 

Through initiatives like the Creative Pitch Mini-Projects, ITAC and Pow Wow Pitch are fostering a spirit of collaboration, ensuring that Indigenous entrepreneurs like Eva have the resources and opportunities to shape a brighter future for their communities.

To watch Eva’s projects, click here.