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

Chantal Schwark, left with Gerri Gill and Elle Schwark, 11 months old in the pumpkin patch at Arrowvale Farm. (SONJA DRINKWATER/ Alberni Valley News)
Final day for Arrowvale pumpkin patch is Oct. 25

Drive down to the patch and pick your own pumpkin

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

John Horgan has been re-elected the MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. (File-Black Press)
Horgan trounces challengers to be re-elected in his Vancouver Island riding

MLA has represented constituency of Langford-Juan de Fuca and its predecessors since 2005

(The Canadian Press)
Overdose advisory issued for Alberni Valley

Island Health warns of increased number of overdoses in central Vancouver Island community

The School District 70 administration office in Port Alberni. AV NEWS FILE PHOTO
School District 70 gets a new name

Name change reflects district’s West Coast roots

(Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay)
QUIZ: A celebration of colour

Fall in British Columbia is a time to enjoy a spectrum of vivid colours

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

White Rock RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls has released a report on mental health and policing in the city. (File photos)
White Rock’s top cop wants to bill local health authority for lengthy mental-health calls

‘Suggestion’ included in nine-page review calling for ‘robust’ support for healthcare-led response

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

Most Read