Native leaders take ownership of aboriginal tourism in Canada 

2010 Olympics part of First Nations’ efforts to take control of their future

Hundreds of aboriginal leaders gathered in Whistler this week to brainstorm about First Nations culture and tourism.

But this wouldn’t be just a "talk-fest" promised Roberta Jamieson, chief of the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario and one of two M.C.s at the National Gathering on Aboriginal Tourism and Culture.

"I hope, and I have every reason to believe, that some practical results will come out of this," she said.

The hope is not without basis as Jamieson, a member of the advisory council to the federal Heritage Ministry which hosted the conference, took part in the first of the National Gathering conferences last year and saw the government produce its own report card on aboriginal artistic expression. There was also a follow-up by the federal government which looked at what had been done so far to implement the recommendations which came out of the first conference,

The Whistler conference will also produce a series of recommendations said Jamieson, which she hopes will form the basis of some new government policy.

"I expect clear recommendations," she said.

"It is, of course, an on-going dialogue so this is not a once and for all. But neither is it a talk-fest. It is an opportunity to engage.

"We do expect political undertakings for response. I will be looking for that within a defined period of time and some follow up."

With Paul Martin set to become Prime Minister Dec.12 there is some uncertainty. But said Jamieson all indications appear to be positive.

"…From all early signals and any comments I have heard from (Paul Martin) directly aboriginal issues are at the top of his agenda.

"I know he is concerned about the economic standards and I think this is an important part that he will want to keep in mind.

"I am looking forward to him doing just that. We have been in a bit of a dark period in the last couple of years in this country. Even Mr. Martin has spoken about the poisoned relationship. We are looking for him to do some things substantively as well as symbolically to shift that and one thing he can do is promote initiatives such as this."

Part of moving ahead with initiatives in aboriginal tourism is the understanding that aboriginal leaders will no longer take a back seat when it comes to tourism in Canada.

"For too long we have been the poster people for Canada’s tourism ads," said Jamieson.

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