Indigenous Tourism Business Feature: osha osha, Toronto, Ontario
osha osha, Toronto, Ontario
From training a young person to guide visitors through ancient sites, to buying paddleboards, canoes or helping with down-payments on specialized snowmobiles for guests, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) Tourism Development Grant Program is making a huge difference for Indigenous tourism operators from coast to coast to coast.
Jenifer Rudski started her business seven years ago with her little sister, Sharon, a bicycle and four paddleboards. The sisters, who have roots in Tetlit Gwich’in First Nation in NWT, would bike the boards to Lake Ontario, hop on and teach people how to stand up paddle board (SUP), sometimes even doing yoga while on the board.
With the help of an $8,000 grant from ITAC, the sisters bought a trailer to store paddleboards near the water. The grant also helped train six young people through Paddle Canada to add to the staff ranks at osha osha (the company is named for a friend). “The grant we received from ITAC was instrumental in helping us grow this summer and we’re so grateful,” she says.
The trailer means they can own more paddleboards and take on more clients for SUP lessons (with or without yoga) on the lake, and take people on various SUP tours around Toronto. As well as paddling around the Toronto Islands and Cathedral Bluffs, Rudski tours people up and down the Humber River, a traditional trade route of Indigenous peoples, and shares First Nations histories, legends and stories.
“My sister and I have lived here for most of our lives but we were quite disconnected from the water,” says Rudski. “But then we found paddle boarding and we we’re both on the water all the time. We realized that we could share it with people and create opportunities to connect with the water and in this way also share our culture.”
Eventually, the Rudski sisters, certified paddle board and yoga instructors, hope to generate enough revenue to hold empowerment camps and help young Indigenous girls and women connect to the environment, water and fitness.