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Developing all-season tourism in Wrigley, N.W.T

Kim Jose, Communications and Engagement Officer (Montreal) March 6, 2019

From left, Jocelyn Skeard, Tourism Officer of the Pedzéh Kí First Nation community, and Susan Haddon, CESO expert Volunteer Advisor (VA)  /  

Jocelyn Skeard is a driving force to make the Pedzéh Kí First Nation, in Wrigley, Northwest Territories, a year-round tourist destination.

Skeard, who is of the Dene people of the Dehcho region, lives in a community of 150 people where she spent most of her childhood. She came back recently to seize the opportunity to work with the community to improve their tourism industry. She recently worked with CESO mentor and expert, Susan Haddon, to build a business plan that will help her and her community generate funding to make their goal a reality.

“Wrigley is a beautiful community on the bank of the Mackenzie River surrounded by mountain ranges,” Jocelyn says, proudly describing the potential of her community to create a unique tourism experience.

Wrigley - NWT - Landscape
(Photo: Jocelyn Skeard)

The Government of Northwest Territories’ Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) wants to promote the region as a tourist destination. The region offers diverse landscapes and experiences that will attract more visitors who seek a balance of adventure and culture. As part of these efforts, ITI has partnered with CESO to develop a mentorship program building the skills and the capacity of tourism operators and employees.

“Our goal is to build a full tourism business that offers multiple, all-season activities, specializing in our Dene way of life. Some of the activities we would like to offer are river tours, hiking, wildlife viewing in the warmer season, and aurora viewing, skiing, snowshoeing during the winter.”

With a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management, Jocelyn has led a community tourism infrastructure project creating spaces to accommodate and attract more visitors. Her education and experience made her more aware of the work needed to elevate Pedzéh Kí into an all-year tourist destination. So, when Jocelyn learned about the opportunity offered by ITI, she immediately submitted her name to be considered.

Jocelyn Skeard in front of the local camp where visitors can find accommodation. (Photo: Susan Haddon)

Jocelyn was glad to be matched with CESO’s Susan Haddon, who has mentored other Indigenous entrepreneurs and shared her experience in tourism, marketing and business development. Last month, Susan travelled to Pedzéh Kí to work with Jocelyn. “It was fascinating to experience the beautiful, pristine environment first-hand and energizing to work with such a talented young woman so dedicated to her community and its wellbeing,” says Susan about her recent on-site visit.

“Mentorship programs are invaluable in so many ways,” adds Susan when asked about her motivation to volunteer with CESO. “As a mentor, my goal is to share information and experience I gained over a lifetime with another who is just starting out to accelerate their journey and help avoid any costly mistakes.”

“My experience with Susan was very positive! What I really enjoyed is how versatile and adaptable she was. Upon meeting, right away she was very excited and supportive to what our goal was. She also had a lot of experience and great ideas on something that we have never done before. She was really respectful on keeping our culture and traditions a key aspect of our tourism development plans.”

Jocelyn adds, “We are now in the process of developing our Visitor Information Centre and tourism operation headquarters to take the next step in being business and market ready.”

Nighttime landscape (Photo: Jocelyn Skeard)

CESO thanks and gratefully acknowledges the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment of the Government of Northwest Territories and the Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada for their financial support.

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