Environmental respect for Mother Earth provides fertile ground for Indigenous communities engaged in the business of tourism in Ontario’s North.
The Anishinaabe of Manitoulin Island and the Sagamok Region of Northeastern Ontario have developed an opportunity for travellers from around the world to tour eight First Nation communities of the Great Spirit Circle Trail (GSCT).
GSCT offers adventurers opportunities to create customized cultural memories to last a lifetime. Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world, has some of the finest fishing with its many inlets and coves suitable for canoeing and kayaking on ancient routes.
Based in M’Chigeeng, Ont., GSCT specializes in authentic Indigenous experiences that exhibit Anishinaabe culture and traditions for travellers, families, and groups of all sizes.
Local people host travelers and share a reflection of the area from their perspective as the original inhabitants who are the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Pottawatomi peoples.
Some of the nature-based cultural experiences include Horse and Teepee Overnighters, Intro to Traditional Herbology, Medicine Walks, Canoe Heritage Tours, First Nation Spirituality, and Voice of the Drum.
Through its website (www.circletrail.com), GSCT attracts visitors looking for cultural experiences with Anishinaabe peoples from soft adventure to wilderness eco-adventures and educational interpretive tours.
Clinton Belchar, Canadian Eco Tourism CEO, believes that grassroots environmentalism creates a new cultural entrepreneur who puts the preservation of their culture front and centre as the essence of their Indigenous business.
Belchar sees the biggest trend in tourism as the packaging of moments where branding of the human experience takes on a one-on-one personal component. People remember the person who gave them the experience. It takes an Indigenous person to give an authentic Indigenous experience to others.
He sees Indigenous youth as a source of original ideas to connect with elders to come up with new experiences.
“Indigenous cultural entrepreneurs are the roots of a successful Indigenous tourism industry. Equally important, is sharing and inspiring the opportunities for cultural entrepreneurship with the new generation to ensure new and organic growth will continue to take place and position tourism as the driving force for preservation, pride, and prosperity,” said Belchar.
Keeping pride and prosperity in northern Ontario is key to the Moose Band Development Corporation (MBDC) whose leadership understands the growing importance of Indigenous tourism. MDBC has been in existence for over 30 years establishing itself as an asset for the Moose Cree First Nation.
MBDC’s purpose is to pursue business opportunities for the Moose Cree as a key driver of their economic development plan. MBDC recently finalized the purchase of a network of 30 fishing camps across Ontario’s north.
As Moose Cree continue to diversify their business and economic initiatives, tourism creates employment through sustainable development that maintains Indigenous peoples’ jobs while strengthening the bottom line of valuable investments for their community.
Indigenous culture, a hot sector for tourism development, celebrates the richness and diversity of Aboriginal communities today.
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