Teara Fraser, commercial pilot and owner of Iskwew Air, poses in front of her plane on the tarmac at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., Tuesday, September 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Metis pilot Teara Fraser profiled in new DC Comics graphic novel of women heroes

The Canadian pilot’s entry is titled: ‘Teara Fraser: Helping Others Soar’

Not all heroes wear capes, as the saying goes, but Teara Fraser does have her wings and likes to fly — with a social purpose.

The Vancouver-based Metis commercial pilot and owner of Iskwew Air is named one of 18 “real-world heroes” in a DC Comics upcoming graphic novel “Wonderful Women of History,” which also includes late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and singer Beyoncé.

“I feel surprised, I feel honoured and a sense of responsibility,” Fraser said in a recent phone interview, “a sense of responsibility to honour the women that I’m alongside by continuing to dismantle systems of oppression and to stand for truth, justice and equality as the women on that list have done — and as the Wonder Woman character was designed to represent.”

Due out Dec. 1, the graphic novel also includes late transgender-rights activist Marsha P. Johnson, disability rights activist Judith Heumann, singer Janelle Monae, and tennis star Serena Williams, among others.

Author Laurie Halse Anderson edited “the anthology of Wonder Women,” which has different writers and illustrators for each profile.

Writer Traci Sorell and illustrator Natasha Donovan are behind the Canadian pilot’s entry, titled: “Teara Fraser: Helping Others Soar.”

ALSO READ: 1st Indigenous woman to start Canadian airline looks to B.C.’s remote regions

“I feel completely in awe of that, but I suppose what I want is to acknowledge that there are real superheroes working at the grassroots levels, and that everyone has their own unique superpowers,” Fraser said.

“There are everyday superheroes that are working hard to co-create a better world, one that serves all peoples.”

The Hay River, N.W.T.-born Fraser announced the launch of Iskwew Air in Vancouver in March 2019 and started operating it last October. It’s billed as Canada’s first female-founded Indigenous airline.

Iskwew (pronounced IS-KWAY-YO) is a Cree word for woman. Fraser chose the airline name as an act of reclamation of matriarchal leadership, language, and womanhood in a male-dominated industry, she said.

The company also wants to create a sense of belonging for all people, Fraser added.

“It’s important to me to uplift all those identifying as women and non-binary folk and Indigenous peoples.”

Aviation is a field the 49-year-old Fraser didn’t consider until she was 30. That’s when she took her first flight on a small plane, on an aerial tour over the Okavango Delta in Botswana, and the pilot told passengers stories of the land and animals.

“I was like, ‘That guy has got the coolest job ever,” she recalled. “And I came down from that flight thinking, ‘Wouldn’t that be amazing? What if I could do what that guy is doing?’ Obviously I’m biased, but witnessing the land in such a sacred way, like a bird witnesses the land, is so powerful.”

When she returned home, Fraser got her commercial pilot’s licence in less than a year, which opened up her world to more possibilities beyond her previous career of various entry-level jobs.

“Becoming a pilot seemed like an impossible thing for me,” Fraser said. “So when I made that impossible thing possible, then I began to wonder what else might be possible — and then I began to dream bigger.”

In 2010 Fraser began her Master of Arts in Leadership degree from Royal Roads University and started her first business — KÎSIK Aerial Survey Inc. — which she sold in 2016.

It was also in 2010, while observing visitors flocking to Vancouver for the Winter Olympics, when Fraser thought of the idea for Iskwew Air. She wanted to uplift Indigenous tourism, serve Indigenous peoples and communities, and showcase Indigenous peoples throughout the province.

The self-described “systems disrupter” and “bridge builder” also wanted her industry “to think differently about diversity, and inclusion and belonging,” she added.

“I wanted to create a space both for myself and for other people where we can be our whole selves — love is one of our articulated values, and we wear love buttons — and a place where we can energize humanity.”

Fraser did a ceremony asking the Musqueam people for their blessing to do business on their territory with Iskwew Air in September 2018.

The company flies out of Vancouver International Airport, which Fraser says is the unceded territory of the Musqueam people.

So far the company offerschartered services throughout B.C.with five employees and one plane — a twin-engine PA31 Piper Navajo Chieftain — which can hold eight passengers.

“Iskwew Air is a humble start with a big vision,” said Fraser, who established the Aviation Leadership Foundation in 2008 and has been involved in various roles at the British Columbia Aviation Council.

Like the pilot in Botswana, Fraser feels it’s important to acknowledge the land that they’re leaving from, flying over and guests on. She shares stories with passengers as appropriate.

“We just connect people however we can with the land, because through that connection comes care,” she said.

The aviation industry is reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, but Fraser remains determined and is still operating. The company has also been delivering care packages to Indigenous communities that welcomed them.

“As an Indigenous woman-owned business, literally it’s just as simple as Iskwew Air must survive this economic and social crisis,” she said. “I plan to look back on this time and say, ‘Remember when I tried to start up an airline, and then COVID hit and I didn’t know if I would make it? And then I did. I made it.’ That is the story that I’m determined to have.”

At the same time, Fraser is working on a PhD in human development. Coincidentally, she’s studying a topic that also speaks to Wonder Woman and the DC Comics “Wonderful Women of History” list: the concept of warriorship.

“I define warriorship as standing fiercely, with deep love, for what matters,” Fraser said. “And that is exactly what I see the women on this list and the incredible impressive women around me are doing: they’re standing fiercely with deep love for what matters. And in my view, what matters right now is ecological, social, racial, and economic justice, and Indigenous sovereignty.”

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Indigenouswomen entrepreneurs

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Salmon Arm RCMP say residents have been receiving calls from fraudster claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House. (File photo)
Salmon Arm RCMP warn of scammer claiming to be with Publishers Clearing House

Police say scammer requests fee to claim sweepstakes prizes

In response to complaints from residents and city hall, a sign was erected recently at the east end of Salmon Arm, asking truckers to avoid the use of engine brakes, particularly as they head down the hill into town. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm gets hopeful sign in quest to reduce trucks’ engine brake noise

Mayor asks RCMP to patrol hill on Trans-Canada Highway between 30th St NE and McGuire Lake

During her PhD, Dr. Sylvie Harder spent several field seasons at an international research station in the Swedish Arctic, researching the impacts of climate change on permafrost environments. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm raised climate scientist brings expertise to West Coast Environmental Law

Sylvie Harder looks forward to helping B.C. communities develop climate change solutions

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

The Observer announces that war veterans Mait Kersey and “Dux” Duxbury have added to the Salmon Arm business section by opening their Shuswap 5¢ to $1 Store on Hudson Street, circa 1950. Image from the Denis Marshall Collection, Salmon Arm Museum at R.J. Haney Heritage Village.
Shuswap history in pictures: Downtown addition

Shuswap 5¢ to $1 Store opens on Hudson

Vernon Fire Rescue Services and Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP were called to a report of an electrical fire at the emergency response centre operated by Turning Points Collaborative Society on 37th Street Sunday, Oct. 18, just before 5:30 p.m. The fire displaced shelter residents who have been set up with services at the Vernon Recreation Complex. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon shelter residents find refuge in hotels, motels, recreation complex after fire

Electrical fire at Turning Points Collaborative Society’s emergency response centre on 37th Street

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Kelowna man charged after allegedly stealing senior’s car

Elderly woman’s car was stolen while she was shopping

Osoyoos Fire Department responded to reports of a vehicle engulfed in flames Sunday (Oct. 18) evening at a Lambert Court residence. (Osoyoos Fire Department)
Osoyoos Fire Department knock down car fire near home

Blaze was ‘really close’ to becoming a structure fire

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels more Okanagan concerts

The Contenders and Colin James postponed until 2021

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Most Read