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It’s not every day you become the first Indigenous woman to own an airline in Canada.

"Even today it’s hard to imagine that I am launching an airline," said Teara Fraser, who grew up in a remote town in the Northwest Territories, and plans to fly her airline to hard-to-reach Indigenous communities.

On Friday, Fraser announced the start of Iskwew Air, based at Vancouver International Airport, which she says will start flights next March.

Fraser, 47, is Métis whose family is from Fort Chipewyan, Alta. She raised her two adult children in Metro Vancouver.

A pilot for 15 years, she previously flew for Hawkair, a Terrace-based regional airline, flying to towns such as Masset and Prince Rupert. She’s also owned her own businesses, including Kîsik Aerial Survey.

The name, Iskwew, is a Cree word for woman, and Fraser wants it to to eventually be known for its Indigenous food and philosophies.

Humble start with big vision

For now, Fraser has just one cabin-class, twin-engine aircraft, but she envisions a full fleet that will specifically provide charter services.

The plane received a blessing Friday from the elders from Musqueam, whose territory the Vancouver International airport is on. Angela Sterritt "When I close my eyes I see flight attendants, a busy ramp, I see connecting people to the land," Fraser said.

Her idea to build an Indigenous airline from scratch came during the 2010 winter Olympics when tourists from all over the world came to Vancouver.

Many wanted a first-hand look at First Nations communities in B.C.

"There was a vision to connect those international travellers to Indigenous communities and showcase B.C.’s First Nations," she said.

But there were few airlines with the capability to travel to remote communities.

"When they identified a barrier, I thought that was a way I could support Indigenous tourism," she added. CBC Boost to women in aviation

Heather Bell, chair of the British Columbia Aviation Council, has been in the industry for 35 years and said it’s nice to see a female entering the male-dominated field.

"It’s great to see an Indigenous woman making this kind of statement, it’s fabulous and I’m very excited," said Bell.

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