Economic development is one part of it, but Tara Saunders will stress that indigenous tourism is not about the selling out of culture.
“It’s also cultural development, cultural preservation,” said Saunders, the tourism development officer and team lead for tourism and culture with the Qalipu First Nation.
“It gives a new generation a purpose to be involved in their culture and to think about cultural protocols and authenticity in a new way. And ultimately in that education to visitors it leads to reconciliation.”
It’s about demonstrating a new side of the indigenous population in Canada, she said.
“It’s reconciliation in action and it’s cultural preservation, cultural promotion. It’s more than just economic gains.”
It’s for all those reasons that Qalipu is focusing on the development of more experiential tourism through its five-year tourism strategy, Experience Qalipu.
“Cultural indigenous tourism has to be experiential to work,” said Saunders.
“People want to have an authentic experience. They want to kind of live how another culture lives.”
Saunders cites things like traditional camp fires, music, crafts, "anything that displays the vibrant culture of an indigenous person.”
Through Experience Qalipu, the band has been working to not only provide those experiences, but to help members advance their current offerings or to get involved in the industry.
Some of the money, $418,257 from the federal government and $157,892 from the province, announced at the band office in Corner Brook on July 29 has already been spent on phases 1 and 2 of the strategy.
That has included website development, a tourism forum for members and other indigenous people, a marketing plan for member tourism operators and experience providers and database development, to look at the gaps and see where it needs to help communities to fill in those gaps.
It’s also being used to support two infrastructure projects — the redevelopment of the K’Taqmkuk Mi’kmaw Cultural Historic Museum in St. George’s and the development of a day park at Wigwam Point on the mouth of the Exploit’s River in Peterview.
The band is also working on medicine walk interpretation that can be used on the many trails in the province.