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October 30, 2023
SAULT STE. MARIE — Emerging opportunities across multiple sectors were highlighted during the Business Development Panel presentation on Oct. 25 at the inaugural annual Anishinabek Nation Economic Development Opportunities Forum 2023. The Forum was hosted by the Anishinabek Nation Economic Development Department from Oct. 24-26 at the Quattro Hotel and Conference Centre in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to showcase its initiatives and those of its member nations, provide actionable insights and calls to action, and highlight policies and funding opportunities from Ontario and Canada.
“Our approach … has been about destination development, which then turned into business development,” says Luke Wassegijig, manager at Wikwemikong Tourism. “Hearing the presentation yesterday about telling our story, I wanted to make sure that we tell our story and tell our story through our lens because again, through colonialism, through Residential School, it’s important to know the work we do is about changing a colonial narrative and we do it through Indigenous tourism.”
Wassegijig says their mission and vision has been to build a foundation for sustainable tourism development that will position Wiikwemkoong as a four-season destination.
“We’re doing that by developing quality market-ready products, services, and events that will support the growth of the Indigenous tourism on Manitoulin Island and Killarney,” Wassegijig says. “In this post-COVID world and post-Kamloops world, we have found so many domestic travellers that were looking for a genuine experience and really looking for a genuine way to reconcile, so what we did is started creating programs around that. With our experiential tourism programs, it’s absolutely not about commodifying our culture. For us, it’s about changing that colonial narrative, and changing that colonial narrative through Indigenous tourism is the best way of doing it because it’s an opportunity for you to tell your stories, it’s an opportunity for Indigenous youth to reclaim those stories, reclaim that culture, reclaim that language, and reclaim their connection to the land.”