A conference board in Canada report says growth in the Indigenous tourism sector is outpacing overall tourism in Canada and four Shuswap bands are working hard to be part of the growth.
Known as Secwepemc Lakes Tourism, Neskonlith, Adams Lake, Splatsin and Little Shuswap Lake bands are collaborating on three projects.
One two-year project began in September 2018 with a total of $119,670 in funding from various sources and four Indigenous women at the helm.
Bonnie Thomas, who is the lead on artisan supports and training needs, says this project involves four main areas of interest.
Shelly Witzky, council member with the Adams Lake Indian Band, is in charge of storyboard and cultural guideline development. Her main focus is the development of a cultural sharing agreement that identifies what traditional knowledge can or cannot be shared.
Witzky is also working on the creation of new story boards and replacing old ones at highway pullouts. So far, she has collected some 100 stories.
Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band member Julie John, who is working on her masters degree, has a passion for working with and providing support to female entrepreneurs.
“We wanted to find out where the supports were most needed and how much information people have about services available to them,” said Thomas.
As an event co-ordinator, Splatsin member Donna Felix is organizing a series of meet-and-greet events, artisan showcases and more.
“I am working specifically with artisans, creating a data base, and I am up to about 80 people,” says Thomas, noting she is looking at ways to support them. “Some people think we should create a webpage and include everyone who wants to market their work, while others are asking for help on pricing and bookkeeping.”
After all the information is collected, Secwepemc Lakes Tourism will set up training programs to meet specific needs.
In a second “semi-related” project, the Neskonlith received just under $10,000 from the Rural Dividend Fund for a training needs assessment.
Funded through Community Futures, the third project, is for the Secwepemc Lakes Training and Employment Initiative. Dorothy Argent is project co-ordinator, working with team members Thomas and John.
This project targets Indigenous youth 15 and up to find out what they want in terms of their future development. This could include providing information on social and life skills as well as trades programs that expand into entrepreneurships for School Districts 83 and 73.
“There are some pretty ambitious kids out there and we want to be able to re-connect them back to their community,” Thomas says. “So we want the bands to share short and longterm plans with the youth so the kids know what will be needed in order to become doctors, dentists, economic development officers, cultural interpretive workers or tour guides, among others.”
Funding for this program is $100,000 from the Rural Dividend Fund, as well as financial support from Community Futures of the Shuswap, Neskonlith and Adams Lake bands over two years.