Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon manager, Kelly Faser, from left, and president Kalin Pallett, sit for a photo with Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association board of directors member Melina Hougen, and tourism development officer Caili Steelafter talking about how the two organizations are combining forces for a pilot project this spring in the Yukon. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Yukon pilot project aims to train First Nations youth to become wilderness guides

Eight youth will be selected to take part in training this spring in Champagne

A pilot project being undertaken by two Yukon tourism associations is aiming to train First Nations youth this spring on becoming wilderness guides.

Headed by the Yukon First Nations Culture and Tourism Association (YFNCT) in collaboration with the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon (WTAY), the project will see eight First Nations youth ages 18 to 30 participate in an intensive, four-week-long training course at Long Ago People’s Place in Champagne. Participants will be living together at a camp meant to mimic the conditions of being on a river excursion, and on top of getting certified for industry-standard skills like wilderness first aid, will also learn cultural interpretation skills and protocols from Yukon First Nations elders and knowledge-keepers.

Following training, participants will be able to apply for paid internships at a number of WTAY-affiliated businesses.

YFNCT tourism development officer Caili Steel said the pilot project was created to address both the lack of First Nations people working in the Yukon tourism industry and a lack of culture-focused tourism opportunities.

“Those are the two main goals of the project — get more First Nations people, help them get into industry by taking away some of those barriers around training and cost for training and to really encourage culture to be a focal point because people are coming to traditional territories and that’s important,” Steel said.

“We want to make sure these youth are really culturally-rooted coming out of this program and have strong understandings of protocols around story sharing and for travelling through the different traditional territories … because when they are really rooted, then they can pass that knowledge on to visitors, teaching them how to travel respectfully through the territories.”

Elders and knowledge-keepers from Champagne and Aishihik First Nation, Kwanlin Dün First Nation, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Kluane First Nation are expected to participate in the training.

Participants for the pilot project will be asked to pay a $500 registration fee that will cover all transportation, accommodation, training and certification, the last one of which Steel said is worth thousands of dollars alone.

WTAY president Kalin Pallett said his association is supporting the initiative because, in recent years, there’s been an increased demand for “cultural product” but not enough resources to meet that demand. As well, in the past, people would book wilderness excursions well in advance, but that’s no longer the case.

“Now, people are showing up almost unannounced, or in some cases, unannounced … and wanting to join trips, and all of a sudden, you’re literally scrambling to find guides, so having a larger pool to draw from is only going to benefit the industry,” he said.

Having a local pool of wilderness guides — especially ones who know Yukon First Nations traditions and stories — also offers tourists a different experience, YFNCT board of directors member Melina Hougen said.

“It’s just kind of a more personal experience and a different perspective of the land, the river,” she said. “So much of the focus, I think, has been on the Gold Rush history, especially for the Yukon River, so this is just kind of a chance to follow the national trend of more Indigenous tourism.”

Applicants can apply online at tinyurl.com/yfnwildguide. The deadline for applications is April 14. Training is scheduled to start May 6.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Turtle and rhino fossils fill in ‘massive’ Yukon history gap

Fossils discovered in 1973 are turning heads

In with the old for Dawson City

Town council considers new heritage bylaw

Housing First facility is open, still more work to do, housing advocate says

Residents will be moved in by the end of the month

Whitehorse releases proposed $33M capital budget for 2020

It includes money for upgrading city infrastructure along with focusing on reducing energy use

Whitehorse animal shelter in dire straits, humane society says

Humane Society Yukon is holding a public meeting Nov. 26 to determine shelter and society’s future

Driving with Jens: Yielding is at the heart of defensive driving

If you’re like most people, you probably think about whether you have right-of-way, not yielding

Today’s mailbox: Remembrance Day, highway work

Letters to the editor published Nov. 13

F.H. Collins Warriors beat Vanier Crusaders in Super Volley boys volleyball final

“As long as we can control their big plays to a minimum, we’ll be successful”

Yukonomist: The squirrel, the husky and the rope

The squirrel is political popularity.

Government workers return to Range Road building

The building had been evacuated in October.

City news, briefly

The Food for Fines campaign and transit passes for a refugee family came up at City Hall this week

Rams, Warriors win Super Volley semifinals

The girls final will be Vanier and Porter Creek while the boys final will be F.H. Collins and Vanier

Most Read