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

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

rcmp
South Surrey neighbours’ calls to police lead to break-and-enter arrest

‘Prime example’ of RCMP and public working together, constable says

Members of the Wheeling 8’s dance group go on a roll at Surrey’s Chuck Bailey Recreation Centre in 2018, during the club’s 45th-anniversary event. If not for the pandemic, such activities could be socially prescribed as part of a new program involving Fraser Health and DiverseCity Community Resources Society. (File photo: Tom Zillich)
‘Social prescriptions’ connect Surrey seniors to activities and other services they need

Fraser Health-backed program involves GP referrals to a Seniors’ Community Connector with DiverseCity

Linda Annis, Aug. 12, 2020. (Photo: Malin Jordan)
Annis wants independent auditor general for Surrey

‘Surrey taxpayers deserve the best possible oversight of the tax dollars they send to city hall,’ Surrey councillor says

SkyTrain’s end of the line, for now, in Whalley. (File photo)
Provincial budget watchers lament no mention of Surrey SkyTrain expansion

But $1.66 billion is earmarked for a second hospital for Surrey, in Cloverdale

The Da Vinci Experience is scheduled to open at Tsawwassen Mills (5000 Canoe Pass Way) in June, with early bird tickets for shows July 15 to Aug. 15 on sale now. (Submitted photo)
‘Immersive art experience’ in Tsawwassen to showcase work of Leonardo Da Vinci

The Da Vinci Experience to open at Tsawwassen Mills in June, early-bird tickets on sale now

A large crowd protested against COVID-19 measures at Sunset Beach in Vancouver on Tuesday, April 20, 2021. (Snapchat)
VIDEO: Large, police-patrolled crowds gather at Vancouver beach for COVID protests

Vancouver police said they patrolled the area and monitored all gatherings

Thousands have converged in Whonnock Lake Park to enjoy the nice weather. (Roxanne Hooper/The News)
Thousands enjoy B.C. park with warnings about social distancing

Portable toilets installed in anticipation of nice weather

FILE – The Instagram app is shown on an iPhone in Toronto on Monday, March 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graeme Roy
Judge acquits B.C. teen boy ‘set up’ on sex assault charge based on Instagram messages

The girl and her friends did not have ‘good intentions’ towards the accused, judge says

Kai Palkeinen recently helped a car stuck on the riverbed near the Big Eddy Bridge. While the car could not be saved, some of the driver’s belongings were. It’s common for vehicles to get stuck in the area due to significantly changing river levels from Revelstoke Dam. (Photo by Kai Palkeinen)
“I just sank a car’: Revelstoke resident tries to save vehicle from the Columbia River

Although it’s not permitted, the riverbed near the city is popular for off roading

Playland at the PNE is set to reopen this May, with COVID-19 health and safety measures approved by the province. (Website/Playland)
VIDEO: Playland at PNE scheduled to reopen this May to masked customers

British Columbians are discouraged from travelling outside of their local health authority to visit the theme park

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou’s extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general had argued there is no justification to delay proceedings in the case

B.C. Premier John Horgan announces travel restrictions between the province’s regional health authorities at the legislature, April 19, 2021. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sees 862 more COVID-19 cases Wednesday, seven deaths

Recreational travel restrictions set to begin Friday

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson is photographed following her budget speech in the legislative assembly at the provincial legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. budget lacks innovative drive, vision during uncertain times, say experts

Finance Minister Selina Robinson’s budget sets out to spend $8.7 billion over three years on infrastructure

Using panels kept cold by water circulating within them, B.C. researchers compared thermal comfort in 60 of the world’s most populous cities, including Toronto. (Lea Ruefenacht)
B.C. researchers use air conditioning to combat spread of COVID particles

Dr. Adam Rysanek and his team have proven a new worthwhile system – a mixture of cooling panels and natural ventilation

Most Read