Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Travel and The Meeting

Travellers of all ages, resources, and experience are looking for more engaging and meaningful experiences. People are seeking a travel experience ‘with a human face' where the key element is authenticity and the desire is to get as close to 'the real deal' as possible. Travellers are looking for human encounters that create moments of great emotion whether they're immersing themselves deep in culture for weeks or months or planning their one or two precious weeks of vacation time. Don't we all want more than a manufactured tourism experience and the ability to hear the true cultural narrative of a place?

But how to obtain such things? Let's explore ways to experience a new place to the fullest by making a real connection with others - a genuine, local, and authentic relationship. And not surprisingly, it all starts by looking at our own attitudes and practicing self-awareness.

Leaving our Ego Behind
Egocentrism has no place when seeking authentic travel experiences. Besides, on a journey we tend to become strangers while exploring lands unknown to us. Forgetting for a time our identity, our roots and our social status. We forgot our certainties and rest on the same pedestal as the people whom we meet, without judging values of inferiority or superiority. Respecting each other's differences with empathy and kindness is already a great step forward.

Listening Rather Than Speaking
Because listening is the basis of all relationships, dialogue is essential for fostering meaningful travel experiences. To listen with altruism and humanity and to argue without imposing one's certainty is an opening for dialogue, an essential element in the relationship with others. Without dialogue, we cannot fully experience our encounters with others. The journey begins when we allow ourselves to become fully immersed in a place, by listening to what it has to tell us. 

By Taming the Unknown
When travelling in a new place, our certainties are questioned and our habits are shaken. This new place scares us, and modifies our vision of the world, especially if one wishes to travel alone. To travel and discover unknown lands and cultures and to observe the plurality of worlds, is also to confront one's apprehensions and weaknesses and to go beyond one's comfort zone. To expose yourself to the unknown and the unpredictable, opens you up to the unveiling of yourself, often repressed or unexploited. The trip makes you grow!

By Indulging in Slowness
At work and at home, ‘taking the time' is not a common practice. It is necessary that we go fast! But it is all about the art of living slowly; of stopping, of taking the time to listen, to gaze, to feel and not to conduct visits at high speed while simply accumulating photos, memories and numbers of places visited. Slowness is wisdom.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Local Community Champion Driving Economic Development Through Cultural Preservation

Upon first meeting David Kattegatsiak of Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, he seems like your regular Economic Development Officer. But David’s desire to bring meaningful benefits to his community and passion to preserve local heritage and culture are unquestionable and evident in every project that he undertakes.

CES has had the pleasure of working with David and the community of Chesterfield Inlet for the past 4 years. As somewhat of a new member of the CES team, the project that I have been most intimately involved with has been Chesterfield Inlet’s 5-Year Community Economic Development Plan. Throughout this project, I have experienced first-hand the drive and determination that David has to push projects forward to create lasting benefits for his community.

Chesterfield Inlet 2023: Community Economic Development Plan is based on providing realistic recommendations for social and economic development, that are based on the needs and opinions of community members. David’s intimate knowledge of local and territorial conditions has enabled CES to provide meaningful suggestions that are both feasible and achievable and will help Chesterfield move towards its community goals.

David is also championing Chesterfield Inlet’s efforts to develop sustainable cultural tourism and ecotourism. Chesterfield Inlet’s beautiful community website is attractive, inviting and illustrates a true representation of what the community has to offer. The professionally developed site allows potential visitors to see the ‘real Chesterfield’ and immerse themselves in beautiful photos of the community’s arctic landscapes, history and get acquainted with some of Chesterfield’s warm and welcoming community members.

It is no secret that one of David’s passions is his home community’s history and heritage. Another one of David’s notable projects is the preservation of the community’s historical sites and heritage buildings. Chesterfield Inlet possesses some remarkable ancient Thule sites, that were inhabited by the ancestors of the modern-day Inuit. These heritage sites include the remains of ancient homes, fox traps, food caches and kayak stands all made from stones. The community’s archaeological treasures and historical sites have inspired David to pursue an Archaeological Mapping project that aims develop interpretive signage as well as an interactive map of the community’s heritage resources.

Chesterfield Inlet’s dedication to its cultural past does not stop at preserving its physical heritage resources. The knowledge of Elders and traditional Inuit traditional knowledge, referred to as Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit is actively being preserved via the community’s digital storytelling project, Chesterfield Inlet StoriesIt is here that the community’s history and contemporary culture is showcased through an interactive storytelling platform. The website and mobile app encourage community members to share their stories of hunting on the land, family and many other important aspects of Inuit life.

In Chesterfield Inlet the groundwork has been laid for a truly authentic and memorable cultural tourism destination and a big portion of the credit for this is owed to David. From the community’s historical walking tour to a  community-wide 5-year tourism strategy, David’s commitment to promote his culture and bring economic benefits to his community is undeniably strong and admirable.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Celebrating the Past; Creating the Future

We’re very lucky to have a long-time client like Joshua Iserhoff of the Cree Nation of Nemaska in Quebec, and I’m personally fortunate to continue to work with him and call him ‘friend’.

Over the years we’ve worked on a variety of projects with Josh and his community, and it’s his passion for tourism and belief in the value of sharing his home and culture that drives these projects forward. This year there are two projects in particular that will help Nemaska celebrate its past and create something for the future.

It’s no secret that elders hold a special place in traditional Indigenous culture, and with this in mind Josh is moving ahead with what may be the first project of its kind in the country – Nemaska’s Stories of Our Elders interpretive trail. Community elders (or their surviving family members) will be interviewed to capture key aspects of their rich lives, remembering stories and preserving their wisdom. This will be incorporated into a variety of media, most prominently on beautifully detailed interpretive panels along a walking path near the community.

Josh is also paving the way for a new kind of arts & crafts boutique for his community’s artists – Nemaska’s Arts & Crafts eBoutique will soon be up and running, operating primarily as an online retail outlet. What will distinguish this site from others is its focus on the artists and their process, as much or more than on the items for sale.  Buyers will learn the artists name, learn about their lives and their families, and will be reminded that they are purchasing something hand made by a person – not a machine. They will also come to understand the lengthy and intensive process of how each item is made – often starting with harvesting the raw materials instead of buying them at a craft store!

Josh’s belief in grassroots development is ever-present, and he continues to turn this belief into action.  Though there are several supportive tourism associations in the region, Josh wants to be sure that the people on the front-line of tourism have a clear voice and the ability to steer development in their communities. To this end, he is proposing the first of what will hopefully be many semi-annual conferences for the Tourism Officers and those who have tourism as part of their portfolio from each of the communities in Eeyou Istchee.  No affiliations or memberships – just representatives from each community tasked with creating sustainable tourism for their homes.

Nemaska is truly a charming community, with unpaved roads, pine and spruce trees everywhere, and friendly faces. I’ve been treated to fantastic meals – at their local restaurants, private homes, and at their annual summer gathering at Old Nemaska. I’ve had numerous ‘adventures’ getting to and from there by plane and on the infamous Route du Nord (come back for my next article to learn more!), and even had the privilege of watching kids show off their Halloween costumes at the elementary school!

If you’d like to visit Nemaska or learn more about what’s happening with tourism in their community, please contact Joshua Iserhoff at jiserhoff@nemaska.ca, or call him at 1-819-673-2512.