An aerial view of the site that will become a tourism centre for LKFN. Jonathan Antoine

This fall, visitors to the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation will be welcomed by a new tourism centre and accommodation.

Construction has already begun on the buildings, which are located near the Fort Simpson ski hill. The project is being completed by Nogha Enterprises, the First Nation’s economic development arm. Carpentry students from Arctic Response Canada are assisting at the site to gain experience.

The facility will include a gazebo, a visitor centre, and five A-frame cabins and five tent platforms for rent.

“It’s pretty-much like a hotel in the forest,” said community tourism coordinator Jonathan Antoine. “I think it’s about time for First Nations in the N.W.T. to be focusing on tourism and building these kind of tourism centres, because it promotes the culture and promotes self-determination.”

Antoine and his predecessor in the role designed the project, which will include solar panels and run as much as possible from renewable energy, with a generator acting as a backup.

“The gazebo will be the heart of the camp,” said Antoine. “So imagine if there’s a canoe group that rents out the cabins, right in the middle there’s going to be a gazebo with a fireplace, places to sit, little lights – a gathering place for the whole camp.”

The Northwest Territories’ Indigenous tourism sector has increasingly been the focus of funding and promotion efforts. In 2018, the territorial government, N.W.T. Tourism, and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada signed a memorandum of understanding to support Indigenous tourism in the territory.

In May 2023, the federal government announced CanNor would allocate $1.2 million to help fund three Indigenous-owned lodge projects in the N.W.T.

Two other Dehcho tourism initiatives were included in the announcement: the Deh Gáh Got’îê First Nation in Fort Providence received $800,000 to upgrade Telemia Lodge, and North Nahanni Naturalist Lodge received $85,000 to update its six-room main lodge and guest cabins.

Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation’s new tourism centre, while not included in May’s announcement, also received funding support from CanNor, Antoine said.

The aim is for the facility to be open year-round and serve the local community as well as visitors. Antoine hopes to see the space used for government workshops or programming by Fort Simpson’s elementary school and high school, while non-profits and tour operators have expressed interest in running on-the-land camps there.

The idea of a tourism centre and camp had bounced around the First Nation’s offices for almost 20 years before the proposal was finalized and submitted last August. This past June, CanNor’s support became official.

“It was the best feeling in the world,” said Antoine, of hearing that the proposal had finally been approved.

He’s encouraging other First Nations across the N.W.T. to pursue their own projects.

“Don’t be shy about applying,” Antoine said. “Tourism can grow in every community. We have amazing sights, amazing people in our communities, and this is a chance to show that off. I want to see First Nations in the territory grow.”

The finished tourism centre is set to be revealed at an opening ceremony in October.

By Caitrin Pilkington, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 06, 2023 at 15:34

This item reprinted with permission from   Cabin Radio   Yellowknife, NorthWest Territories
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