Wikwemikong Tourism celebrates graduates of cultural guide training program

Wikwemikong Tourism celebrated the graduation of its inaugural cultural guide training program November 23. The graduates are, left, Mandaago Osawamick, Jack Rivers, Vincent Manitowabi, along with Dustin Peltier. Missing from photo is Isaiah Peltier.

WIIKWEMKOONG – Wikwemikong Tourism celebrated the graduation of its inaugural cultural guide training program on November 23.

“This cultural guide training program has proven to be a well-rounded training curriculum that we hope to one day have become an industry standard, and one that other companies or communities can utilize to help develop their own guides and cultural entrepreneurs,” stated tourism manager Luke Wassegijig. 

On November 23, Wikwemikong Tourism held a small gathering with staff and partners to celebrate the graduation of the participants of the first edition of the program.  The four trainees who were enrolled in the program (Mandaago Osawamick, Jack Rivers, Vincent Manitowabi, Isaiah Peltier) have now earned the title of ‘Cultural Guide’ and are prepared to continue a career in the Indigenous tourism industry. By having each of these certifications under their belt, the trainees will be considered as some of the most qualified tour guides in the industry, and Wikwemikong Tourism will continue to promote them as cultural guides.

The program was designed to provide each of the participants with a blend of industry certified training and cultural training from local knowledge carriers. This training would successfully teach the trainees how to respectfully deliver cultural tourism experiences and educate both visitors and community members about history of the community of Wiikwemkoong and the Anishnaabek people of the Great Lakes. 

The trainees participated in 18 modules over the course of 16 weeks including ORCKA levels 1-3, ATV wilderness and entrepreneurial, pre-colonial culinary methods, advanced wilderness first-aid, Anishnaabek language and cultural knowledge, plants and medicinal teachings, fur harvesters and conservation management, Great Lakes history and migration, Powwow etiquette and traditions, fundamentals of video production, guiding 101, hunting and guiding with Fuel the Fire TV, traditional harvesting methods, service excellence, and land based learning initiatives. 

In addition to preparing the guides for a career in Indigenous tourism, Wikwemikong Tourism hopes to create capacity for their programming and daily cultural experiences by utilizing the program as a launchpad to establish a roster of guides and ultimately create employment for community members. Wikwemikong Tourism hopes to get back to pre-pandemic operating levels in 2019, and in order to do so requires knowledgeable guides with cultural, service, and industry related training in a variety of areas. By completing the program, this ensures that each of the graduates of the program will have the confidence to conduct tours and lead community events with minimal direction or supervision.

The first edition of the program was originally intended to include members from other communities and organizations, but due to COVID-19 constraints, it was limited to just five members from the community of Wiikwemkoong. Wikwemikong Tourism hopes to have the next edition of the cultural guide training program program include other communities.

Wikwemikong Tourism has previously won awards for their industry-leading cultural experiences, including being recognized as tourism champions in 2017 by Nature and Outdoor Tourism Ontario, Indigenous Tourism Award in 2018 by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario and the Indigenous Adventure award in 2019 by the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada. The Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival was also awarded the Indigenous tourism award in 2019 by the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario.

Wikwemikong Tourism is a department of the Enaadmaagehjik (WDC) and is responsible for community tourism development guided by the Wikwemikong Tourism Strategy, with a vision to build a foundation for sustainable tourism development that will position Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory as a four-season destination. Enaadmaagehjik is a non-profit organization with a mission to foster and advance the interests of the band members of the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory through the promotion and generation of a diversified economic base in order to increase the wealth, opportunity, qualify of life of the total Wiikwemkoong population.