Treaty 10 Territory and Homeland of the Métis (Beauval, Saskatchewan) – On September 12-14, 2023, Westside Indigenous Experiences Inc. (WSIE) hosted the 4th Annual Westside Tourism Symposium at Sandy Beach Resort, approximately 150 kilometers northeast of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Located in the Boreal Forest, on the shores of Lac La Plonge Lake, Sandy Beach Resort offered symposium guests a picturesque location to unwind, unplug and learn about WSIE’s Westside Tourism Strategy. Communities in northwest Saskatchewan are committed to the growth of Indigenous tourism and their prosperity for the future. As Brent Digness, Eastern Region 2, Métis Nation-Saskatchewan,said, “We want to share the grit of the land and open the northwest.”

WSIE and Indigenous tourism operators in the area recognize the need for an organized, thoughtful approach to develop Indigenous tourism and worked with Stormy Lake Consulting to develop the Westside Tourism Strategy. The strategy is an 18-month plan to make this area a destination place with a vision, “To build a thriving and respectful tourism industry in the Westside that provides opportunities for our communities and sustains our culture and values.” (Tourism Strategy, WEIS, September 2023).

Sandy Beach Resort is only one example of many Indigenous tourism operators in this area with a rich history and offer their guests a variety of culturally based, hands-on experiences in landscape kissed with colour in the fall. For over 25 years, kâniyâsihk Cultural Camps, located in Island Lake, Saskatchewan, hosts an annual culture camp and offer a variety of learning opportunities like, tanning techniques, how to filet a fish, build a fire, cutting and preserving meat. They also offer certification programs in Basic First Aid, Advanced Wilderness First Aid, and Paddle Canada Lakewater.

(Photo credit: Michelle Brown, Business Support Coordinator, ITAC. Tracey Pascal, ITAC)

ITAC’s Business Support Coordinator, Michelle Brown, delivered a presentation on ITAC’s Accreditation Program, The Original Original and the Business Support Program, a program for Indigenous tourism operators to be launched in October 2023.

In addition to the presentations, symposium delegates were treated to delicious, locally harvested and grown food, boat tours of Lac La Plonge Lake, entertainment by Alphonse and Ernestine, music by Leroy Laliberte & Company, and a unexpected, vibrant show by the aurora borealis. The symposium was highlighted by WSIE unveiling and signing the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada’s (ITAC) pledge to make Canada a world leader in Indigenous tourism by 2030. WSIE and the communities in northwest Saskatchewan are coming together to carve out their spot in the Indigenous tourism industry in a meaningful way.