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Community based ecotourism, conservation of biodiversity and land management

Final Activity Report Summary - CBE-BCLM (Community based ecotourism, conservation of biodiversity and land management)

Community based ecotourism is thriving all over the world and gaining international attention. Communities are investigating ways to preserve their cultural integrity and land resources. Tourism represents an opportunity for indigenous people to gain economic independence and cultural rejuvenation. Appropriately managed tourism is seen as a sustainable activity that is generally consistent with indigenous values about the sanctity of the land and the people relationship to it (Notzke, 2006). Tourism is also viewed as a way to raise attention, share concerns and get to know other cultures. The 2007 United Nations' declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples acted as a timely stimulus for research to assess the current state of aboriginal ecotourism and to what extent communal needs were being addressed by scholarly research in this area (Lemelin, Blangy, 2009).

The research results of this project were based on close collaborations which were established by the researcher with three cultural groups of northern Canada and Scandinavia, namely the Cri of Eeyou Istchee in the James Bay area of Quebec and Moose Factory in Ontario, the Inuit of Baker Lake in Nunavut and the Saami of Övre Soppero in Sweden. 10 academic and research colleagues from both continents were involved.

A total of 16 local focus groups and participatory workshops were organised and facilitated in the communities and two international workshops gathered aboriginal representatives from all over the Arctic. These local workshops aimed at:
1. addressing the needs of the individual communities and engaging community members in tourism projects;
2. creating theme routes and cultural packages;
3. looking at marketing readiness;
4. developing a vision for an ecolodge project;
5. regaining culture and language;
6. evaluating the way they promoted bio-cultural diversity and web technologies in their web sites;
7. defining authenticity in the certification programs; and
8. exploring scenarios of change and adaptability to climate change issues.

The workshops were designed in cooperation with a team of researchers at Carleton University, co-facilitated using the community engagement and collaborative enquiry techniques (SAS) that Chevalier and Buckles developed in response to the need to improve research collaborations and knowledge sharing around the world. Those techniques were tested, revisited, adapted and some of them redesigned, renamed and modified to incorporate local knowledge and traditional expertise.

Based on these excellent collaborations, a community based tourism tool kit was produced for the Cree Outfitting Tourism Association (COTA) by the SAS international team and was kindly shared with our other partners, the Inuit and Saami. The manual proved to be very useful for the design of events and facilitated the conducting of research on community engagement processes and community led investigations. It was also used for purposes other than tourism and served to empower communities and sustain them in their search for self sustainable development.

The three year research program culminated with the gathering of all our aboriginal partners in a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded project in Ottawa, where we further developed the SAS techniques and produced a new model of collaborative community based research projects which were initiated, coordinated and operated by aboriginal researchers under the guidance of their academic partners. The comparative study between the Inuit, caribou hunters of Baker Lake and the Saami reindeer herder of Övre Soppero, which was funded by the Institut de Recherche Polaire Français (IPEV) was another opportunity to develop research collaborations between two arctic communities that, while far apart, were facing similar climate change issues and challenges and were looking at options and strategies for the future.

The 200 case studies in our printed version of the guide book on indigenous tourism, that was uploaded on line, on a content management system (please see online) integrating Google maps, web based survey and forum of discussion were a promising way of involving aboriginal partners scattered all over the Arctic and engaging them in collaborative research. The aboriginal authors could view the responses of the web based survey on the Google maps and comment them via the forum. Web based technologies and social networking on line showed great promise for the supporting of community based research. An aboriginal research centre was foreseen for the future and would need an appropriate host institution.