Indigenous Tourism Ontario establishes cultural integrity advisory committee

Indigenous Tourism Ontario

ONTARIO—Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO) has announced the establishment of the Indigenous Cultural Integrity Advisory Committee (ICIAC) to support the respectful growth of Indigenous tourism in Ontario.

The committee is made up of 14 members including several from Manitoulin Island, referred to as knowledge keepers, who will be called upon to contribute their expertise in Indigenous history, knowledge, teachings, and practices as the organization conducts its work to develop and deliver culturally authentic tourism.

“We are extremely excited to engage this group of outstanding individuals,” said Kevin Eshkawkogan, ITO president and chief executive officer (CEO) in a news release.

Members of the committee include Dominic Beaudry and Josh Eshkawkogan, both of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory, Neda Debassige of M’Chigeeng First Nation, and Tim McGregor of Whitefish River First Nation. Other members include Tyler French and Dorothy French of the Chippewas of the Thames; Jaquie Jamieson, Six Nations of the Grand River; Beatrice (Bea) Johnson Tarbell, Akwesasne; Perry McLeod-Shabogesic and Laurie McLeod-Shabogesic, both of Nipissing First Nation; Quinn Meawasige of Serpent River First Nation; Sam Manitowabi of Lac Seul First Nation; Michelle Savoie of the Metis Nation of Ontario; Laurie McLeod-Shabogesic of Nipissing First Nation; and David R. Maracle of Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

Mr. Eshkawkogan explained the committee, “Will focus on developing, implementing, and maintaining broad and inclusive Indigenous cultural integrity guidelines applicable to all aspects of tourism operations, engagements, and practices. Their work will be reflective of the nations in Ontario and will lead with an Indigenous-led grassroots approach.”

The goal of the guidelines is to protect the knowledge, values, beliefs and traditions of all Indigenous peoples in Ontario while developing tourism initiatives that are in high demand. As the wider tourism industry looks to build partnerships and help develop Indigenous tourism products, these guidelines will help to prevent cultural appropriation and exploitation of Indigenous cultures in tourism, ITO outlined.

ITO knows that when developed sustainably Indigenous tourism can be a powerful vehicle for improving the socio-economic conditions of Indigenous people while building a greater understanding and relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Across the province, over 400 Indigenous ITO members look to enhance existing products and develop new products, and market and promote their offerings. Through one-on-one support with entrepreneurs, business owners and community members, ITO is taking the necessary steps to build the Indigenous tourism industry in a responsible manner.

By establishing the ICIAC advisory group, ITO will rely on these diverse Indigenous peoples from across Ontario to guide its work. 

After extensive outreach and careful consideration, “ITO is ecstatic to announce the committee members. With a plethora of expertise in Indigenous history, knowledge, teachings, and practices, the committee’s commitment to preserving Indigenous culture and traditions are invaluable to the Indigenous tourism industry and will allow ITO, and the industry, to maintain integrity in the development and delivery of our culturally authentic tourism.”

“Ensuring we maintain the integrity of our culture while engaging in business is critical to moving forward in a positive direction,” said Tim McGregor, knowledge keeper. “It is my pleasure to help the team at Indigenous Tourism Ontario and the industry with this important work.”