Friday, January 11, 2019

Cultural Entrepreneurs – The Heart of the Indigenous Tourism Industry

As we enter into 2019, I can’t help but reflect on the year that has just passed; its successes, its challenges and things that I am particularly proud of. This past summer and fall, CES had the honour of collaborating with one of our most valued clients, Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO), in conducting a series of workshops across Ontario. This was a particularly impactful experience for me, as I had the opportunity to meet some truly inspiring people.

We joined Steven Antoine, a renowned Ojibwe tour guide from Manitoulin Island, in delivering the workshops. Over a 2-week period in October, we travelled from east to west, inviting Indigenous community members, Indigenous tourism businesses and tourism partners to share their opinions about the Indigenous tourism industry in Ontario and to provide information about the programs that ITO offers. 

Steve is what we call a ‘Cultural Entrepreneur’. You may have heard this term before or you may be wondering what it means. A Cultural Entrepreneur is someone who shares their knowledge and carries a cultural legacy while teaching others about Indigenous traditions, beliefs and ways of life.

Photo credit: Yukon First Nations Culture & Tourism
Over the course of our road trip across Ontario, I learned so much from Steve; the stories, the legends and the experiences that he shared taught me more about Indigenous culture than my years at school. I am honoured that he was willing to share this cultural knowledge with me and I know that it has changed my personal outlook.

For this reason, I believe so strongly in the power of Indigenous tourism. Now, more than ever, is the time that our world needs this traditional Indigenous knowledge, for reconciliation, for the future of our Earth and for many other reasons. Indigenous tourism is a medium for sharing and understanding these ideas. 

The ITO Research Study will be completed early this year and the findings will be used to help the provincial organization move forward in supporting Indigenous Cultural Entrepreneurs across Ontario.

Steve Antoine is a tour guide at Wikwemikong Tourism on Manitoulin Island, for more information: 

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