Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Chesterfield Inet Qajaq Program - Opportunities for Youth to Learn About Traditional Culture

Photo Credit: Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

CES currently has the pleasure of working with the community of Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut on the redevelopment of its community economic development plan that aims to create a community-based approach to socio-economic development that respects cultural values and traditions.

We are so thrilled to announce that last week, a group from the local school in Chesterfield Inlet won the Arctic Inspiration Prize of $140,000 for its Qajaq Program. The Qajaq Program looks to engage young people in the revitalization of the region’s rich kayaking history by working with local knowledge keepers to learn how to build and paddle traditional kayaks. CES is pleased to highlight this inspiring community initiative that places value on hands-on experiential learning of traditional skills with a focus on outdoor recreation while also linking Elders and youth.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize is awarded to diverse groups to recognize excellence and encourage teamwork in order to use or expand Arctic knowledge and bring it into action for the benefit of the Canadian Arctic. The motivation behind this prize is to contribute to the future of the Canadian Arctic, its major challenges and opportunities in the face of rapid changes in environment, culture, technology and economy.

Photo Credit: Ana Leishman

Chesterfield Inlet is a remote Inuit community of approximately 400 people on the north-western coast of Hudson Bay. The community still practices and heavily relies on its traditional Inuit culture in modern daily life. Inuit language is spoken widely throughout the community and 75% of residents report Inuktitut as their mother tongue. In the spring on a nice day, you won’t find many people in the community; most will be out on the land hunting caribou, fishing, or gathering food. The residents of Chesterfield Inlet still maintain a strong and admirable connection to their ancient culture and the natural environment.

These strong cultural values are present throughout community and the Qajaq Program is a perfect example of how residents strive to preserve traditional knowledge. Glen Brocklebank a teacher at the local school, helped start the Qajaq Program in 2004. Through this project, the youth of Chesterfield Inlet build hand-crafted qajaqs/kayaks based on the design that was used in the area hundreds of years earlier. After the qajaqs are built, the students embark on a trip where they travel 10 kilometres by sea and land while learning traditional skills from Elders.

Photo Credit: Ana Leishman

Cultural Preservation
Prior to the Qajaq program, kayaks had not been built in the community by anyone. This program represents Indigenous cultural revival at its finest. Teaching young people how to build kayaks like their ancestors used to is a creative way that passes traditional skills on to the next generation.

Hands-On Experiential Learning
The Qajaq Program not only gives students the opportunity to learn about building a traditional kayak, they actually get to participate in its construction. The ability to create something with their own hands while enhancing their craftsmanship skills promotes personal growth on many levels. This is also a unique way to learn about culture, versus reading about it in a book. The students are learning by doing, which is how the area’s original inhabitants gained valuable life skills.

Teamwork & Collaboration
Building a kayak is a big project and students need to work together to accomplish their task. Working together towards a common goal promotes bonding, community cohesiveness and pride.

Photo Credit: Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

Outdoor Recreation
Once the kayaks are built, students hop right in and get the chance to test out their creations. Being on the water and perfecting their kayaking skills allows them to be physically active while connecting with their environment. Simply being outside and engaging in recreation is beneficial for anyone, especially for young people.

Linking Elders & Youth
A crucial component of the Qajaq Program is the inclusion of community Elders who teach the students about Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit or ‘Inuit Traditional Knowledge’. This way, the valuable information that is held by local knowledge keepers is not lost and is passed down and practiced by youth in the community. Elders are able to share their wisdom in order to foster a strong cultural identity amongst young people.

Photo Credit: Legislative Assembly of Nunavut

The Chesterfield Inlet Qajaq Program is an inspiring example of how one northern community has harnessed a desire to revive its cultural past to engage youth in hands-on and environmental education. We at CES admire this holistic program, which embodies sustainable grassroots development.

The Arctic Inspiration Prize funds will go towards building 30 new kayaks, purchasing new dry suits and the students of Chesterfield Inlet will also create a special kayak that can be shipped to other communities as a teaching resource. We hope to see more innovative programs such as this one that engages youth to become active participants in their traditional culture.

If you would like to learn about how you can implement community-based programs that prioritize traditional culture and environmental education in your region, contact us at or call us at 1-877-444-5550.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Celebrating a Great Year for Indigenous Tourism & Community Development Projects Across Canada

Cree Nation of Mistissini

The New Year is always a time for reflection… the CES team wanted to take this as opportunity to thank all of our wonderful clients and partners for making 2017 such a great year. We’ve been involved with a variety of different projects across Canada that focus on Indigenous Tourism Development, Community Development, and cultural preservation.

This particular year was a milestone for CES since we’ve just celebrated our 20th Year in operation.  Here is a message from our CEO, Clinton Belcher sharing the evolution and growth of CES. “I think that we are going to have an impact on a wider reach and I think that it will be National and or International, and that’s by using our methodologies and our system and certainly the word of mouth. I believe we will set a bar for other consultants and firms to work towards for helping indigenous communities prosper.

After 20 years, I really recognize how important our work is. I love coaching and I love advising and being in a mentorship role – I’m really enjoying giving back that way. I feel like it’s philanthropy in a sense, we help communities with incentives to get started, but it’s developing a relationship to help reach goals – I don’t even see it as work.  It’s just what I should be doing.

Every person that comes into my life provides me with a value. I feel that I want to do more and return something to them because of what they have provided me with.” – Clinton Belcher, CEO of CES

We’re excited to showcase all the wonderful projects that we were a part of, this past year. The projects range from Tourism Planning, Product Development, Authentic Indigenous Moments, Coaching & Training Programs, Website Development, Photography & Videography, Architectural Services, Marketing & Branding, Feasibility Studies and Business Plans, and Stakeholder Consultations:

 My Mistissini Moments  & Tourism Website Development– Cree Nation of Mistissini, Quebec

The development of the first community indigenous tourism web platform that embowers Cultural Entrepreneurs to share unique moments with visitors. We also simultaneously developed their new tourism website found at  This project included coaching and training programs, product development, and professional photography.

Feasibility Study for Wiwkwedong Marina & Boat Launch - Chippewas of Kettle & Stony Point First Nation, Ontario

Developed a Feasibility Study for a Marina and Boat Launch that included architectural renderings, operational planning, marketing strategies, and product development.

Community Tourism Plan – Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation, Ontario

Development of a 5 Year Tourism Strategy that focused on putting the community first, inspiring entrepreneurship and new business creation, and focusing on responsible tourism development. This project included stakeholder consultations and a community tourism workshop.

Operational Marketing Plan - Ritchie Falls Resort, Ontario

Developed an Operational Marketing Plan which included creating a new brand for the business and shifting from consumptive tourism to more ecotourism products and offerings. A new logo, brand, marketing strategy, and look and feel for the business was created as a result.

Website Development - Ritchie Falls Resort, Ontario

A new website for the Ritchie Falls Resort was developed to align with the business’s new brand and product offerings.

Business Plan for Overnight Accommodations – Wahnapitae First Nation, Ontario

The development of a Feasibility Study and subsequent Business Plan was developed for overnight accommodations. This project included architectural renderings & design, an Environmental Assessment & Geotechnical Report, community stakeholder consultations, marketing and branding solutions, as well as financial planning.

 Marketing Plan for the Renovations and Rebrand of Rocky’s Restaurant – Wahnapitae First Nation, Ontario

The development of a marketing strategy and rebrand for Rocky’s Restaurant that was aligned with the new Hotel in the community. This project included architectural renderings, design, and branding concepts for the newly renovated restaurant.

Website Development – Spirit Island Adventures, Ontario

The creation of a new website for Spirit Island Adventures, a luxury teepee glamping business.

Community Website Development / Photography & Videography – Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut

Developed a new community website for the Hamlet of Chesterfield Inlet which included professional photography, branding, and interactive web-based technology.

This project also included the development of a high definition community video that portrayed a glimpse of what life in Chesterfield Inlet is all about.


Website Development and Marketing & Branding – Indigenous Tourism Ontario

The development of a new website and bold brand for ITO to transition from Aboriginal Tourism Ontario to Indigenous Tourism Ontario. This project included updating their logo, website, social media sites, and setting clear goals and budgets for internal and external marketing strategies.

Cultural Authenticity Program – Indigenous Tourism Ontario

The development of a program that pays recognition to businesses offering culturally authentic experiences, and acknowledges them for contributing to their Indigenous heritage in Ontario. This program included capacity building, an awareness campaign, and brand development.

Authentic Indigenous Moments (AIM) Program – Indigenous Tourism Ontario

The creation of the first provincially dedicated grassroots Indigenous tourism initiative that connects “authentic cultural entrepreneurs” directly with visitors through an interactive web platform. This project included an awareness campaign, website development, capacity building, and assistance with development 50 experiences.

Operational Business Plan & Training Program – Mudge’s Fishing Camp, Ontario

The development of a 5 Year Operational Business Plan for the newly purchased Mudge’s Fishing Camp for Seine River First Nation. The fishing camp is set to be launch for the 2018 main fishing season.

CES also assisted with facilitation of a staff training program for the Fishing Camp.

Business Plan for Chiefswood Cultural Heritage Park – Six Nations Tourism, Ontario

The development of a Business Plan for the Revitalization of Chiefswood Park in Six Nations Territory. This project included the creation of new products and service offerings for both visitors and community members, as well as a bold marketing and branding strategy.

Tourism Officer Training Program – Cree Nation of Mistissini, Quebec

Delivered a one year coaching and training program for the Tourism Officer in Mistissini. The program included both onsite and offsite training in a variety of different disciplines in the tourism industry including Marketing & Branding, Product Development, Project Management, Financial Management, Tourism Entrepreneur Business Coaching, Workshop / Presentation development & facilitation, and general tourism business operations.

Digital Storytelling Project – Huu-ay-aht First Nations, BC

Facilitated a training program with the Communications staff in Huu-ay-aht First Nations on the development of a digital storytelling project for their community that focused on cultural preservation and involving the community to share and celebrate stories of the past, present, and future. This project also included a community workshop on digital storytelling.

Community Stakeholder Consultations – City of Campbell River, BC

CES was sub-contracted by Cohlmeyer Architecture to facilitate the community stakeholder consultations for the community’s waterfront development project. The stakeholder consultations had the brand of “Refresh & Inspire” with the goal of providing a space for community members to share their ideas, concepts and proposals for the Waterfront Task Force that focused on how it benefits the community’s social, cultural, environmental, and economic wellbeing.  

Tourism Planning, Stories of our Elders Interpretive Trail, and Arts & Crafts eBoutique – Cree Nation of Nemaska, Quebec

CES updated Nemaska's 2011 Tourism Plan to best reflect changes in the global market, tourism trends, and to best position themselves within the surrounding communities in Eeyou Istchee region in Northern Quebec. We also mapped out their Marketing Plan to allow the community to stand-out from the crowds and establish its own exclusive brand identity. 

The Stories of our Elders project is the first of its kind - an Elders Trail in the community will capture the memories and knowledge of the communities wisest members and transcribe some of these moments on signs and plaques along a walking trail. And finally, the Arts & Crafts eBoutique was developed to sell the community's arts and crafts on an engaging website. A Social Enterprise platform was created to support programs for Youth and encouraging local artists to continue their craft. 

How to Connect with Us:

As you can see it's been a incredible year! For more info on some of our past projects and to find out more about our services contact or visit us at

Monday, December 11, 2017

Rural Tourism and How to Draw More Visitors to your Destination

Photo Credit: Linus Strandholm

A common challenge with developing tourism in small rural communities is connectivity. How do you draw in visitors when you are located 2 hours or more away from main highways and cities? As tourism professionals that support responsible travel and community-based experiences, we're always seeking realistic and sustainable solutions to these types of challenges. Sometimes you can find the answers while talking to the tourists and witnessing the changing demands this industry has had from a visitor perspective.

One of the major growing demands with tourism experiences, especially in Canada, is the classic road trip. The road trips today are being spearheaded by the younger generation, the Millennials, that seek new unique off the beaten track adventures. So this new demand is different than the classic road trip out west to see the Canadian Rocky Mountains - this new generation is searching for nature-based and cultural experiences that are different than the typical "touristy" destinations. That said, this opens up a whole new opportunity for small scale rural tourism development.

How to Create a Destination

A question came up in one of our recent webinars from an individual that resides in a rural community. He asked "ok that's great if we start to develop local tourism opportunities, but who is going to come all the way up to our community when there are other more accessible destinations?" The answer to this, is that you just have to create an experience to get to your community... meaning taking that good old classic road trip and creating a route that connects your community to a variety of other places and the journey to get there, becomes a large part of the adventure.

An example of a destination that has planned this well, is Iceland. It is a remote, northern, secluded island nation with a low population, but because of accessibility it has become one of the most popular tourist destinations today. They created easily navigable routes throughout the country that allow opportunities for visitors to explore remote small communities. They have a wide range of small, locally owned guesthouses, farm-stays, cabins, hostels, attractions, tour operators/guides, and restaurants, scattered throughout the country making it a road trip friendly destination. This has attracted a wide variety of visitors of various ages and budgets to explore this country which now has over 2 million visitors per year and the entire population is only 350,000.

Photo Credit: Amanda Huculak

So instead of using the "if you build it they will come" approach - partner with your surrounding neighbours and create an experience. Work together and create an epic road trip and your community will be featured as one of the highlights. This approach will only grow and become more popular in the years to come. Partner with other tourism businesses, your regional Destination Management Organizations (DMOs), regional / provincial organizations, Car Rental companies, and Tour Operators to work together to create unique packaged experiences and sample itineraries for road trips. Start to make it easy for visitors to find you and the journey to get there is a major part of the destination.

For more ideas on how to create a sustainable tourism destination in your rural community book a free 30 minutes coaching session with a CES team member. Contact us at or call 1-877-444-5550.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Power of Images and Videos to Share your Story

Local Guide in Chesterfield Inlet Nunavut
In today’s fast paced world of technology and visual overload, it’s hard for a tourism destination to stand out among all the noise.  Amanda recently attended the EyeEm Photo Awards in Berlin that showcases some of the world’s most talented photographers/visual storytellers and she was inspired by what images grabbed the most attention.

Surely images with beautiful landscapes, sunsets, and waterfalls draw you in, but it’s the images that trigger an emotion or tell a story that make the viewer want to learn more. One of the photographers was a street photographer from New York that become famous from showing “real” unscripted photos of locals that focused on a more authentic, strange, and interesting side of New York.  His photos made you laugh, or become confused, or question what was going on… they were memorable in a very unique way that triggered the urge to start conversations and want to learn more.  That summarizes the power a single image can have.

When it comes to promoting your tourism product, your brand, and/or your community it’s important to showcase the real story behind your community and its people but leave room for interpretation for a potential client to insert their own take or be able to visualize themselves in that experience. For example, one of CES’s photographers recently travelled up to Chesterfield Inlet Nunavut to capture images and video footage that shared the community’s story. A simple activity of making a cup of tea out on the land turned into the main story behind the video because of the willingness of the local guide to invite people in to experience a moment with him through photos and videos.  As a viewer you feel as though you are right there in that experience and you instantly want to learn more.  Nothing was particularly special about this experience, but it was authentic and unscripted, therefore it provided you with a real human experience.  Check out Chesterfield Inlet’s new website and video at  

Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut

It’s very easy nowadays to notice when images are scripted and staged – it feels too perfect and beautiful. Similar to the New York photographer’s images, the newest trends in imagery is to want things that look different, perhaps weird or strange, and at the same time intriguing.  Images of a beautiful model posing in front of a waterfall or at a scenic viewpoint don’t really tell a story… so you may end up attracting clientele that doesn’t really want to interact with locals or have a real experience. So this brings up the question – what type of visitors (tourists) do you want to attract?  How do you want your tourism business and/or community’s brand portrayed? What and who do you want to highlight?

Those are all great starting points to ask yourself before hiring a photographer or taking the photos and videos yourself.  Images have the potential to drastically set the stage for your brand image and assist in determining who you will attract to your destination. Another strong tip or word of advice for the images that you use to promote your tourism experiences, is to not be afraid to get your visitors to show their own perspectives and takes.  For example, in Sooke BC, they promote photography contests on Istagram that showcase what they love about the region. They offer prizes for the winner, which support local businesses, and at the same time they get a wide range of different people, perspectives, and images that share stories about the region. So there are a bunch of creative ways that you can have a large database of authentic images that assist in sharing your destination’s story.

Amanda sharing a "moment" with a Mistissini local

To summarize the power of images and videos to help share your destination’s story, here are some useful tips:
  • Be authentic and don’t be afraid to be real
  • Promotional photos/videos don’t have to be scripted and beautiful
  • Develop your brand strategy and define who your clients are and who you want to attract
  • Empower your visitors (tourists) to share their perspectives and images to help tell your story

Where to get started…

If you are new to tourism or want to have some guidance in sharing your tourism business/community’s story using images, CES offers a free one-on-one coaching session with you on where to start.  For more details contact or call us at 1-877-444-5550.