Dennis Thomas has a motto: “If you are confident in what you are doing, you will see results.” That kind of thinking has served him well; he’s a real connector. Not only is he the economic development officer for the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, four years ago he became project manager for Takaya Tours.
Now he finds himself somewhat of an expert on the ins-and-outs of Indigenous cultural tourism. Groups from all over the world ask him about the secret behind Takaya Tour’s success. The secret is ….there is no secret. He just keeps it real. “They ask how do we make sure we’re talking about the correct stuff? Our main goal is how to get the story and history of this small community out to the public in a positive way.”
Takaya Tours is a tourism company that features Tsleil-Waututh traditions on their home territory in North Vancouver. It is one of the most unique and successful tour experiences of its kind in the world.
It started out 14 years ago offering excursions in a real hand-carved cedar canoe.
These days Takaya Tours provides more than 70 tours every summer, accommodating 400 to 500 people every year. There’s even a 40-passenger boat for long-term excursions.
There are eight full time people working at Takaya, and countless others who work on contract. For First Nations guides, it’s more than a job. “It’s a stepping stone for youth to know about our culture, they get their foot in the door, learn about jobs, communication skills, presentation skills. They learn songs and history about their community. That’s why they come to Takaya Tours.”
Every story they tell, every song they perform is pre-approved by the community. And yes, there are some songs Takaya Tour guides aren’t allowed to perform.
Indigenous cultural tourism is one of the fastest growing tourism experiences in B.C.
Takaya Tours is a unique way to explore the more than 29 kilometers of fjord and wilderness just around the corner in Vancouver. There are bears, deer, coyotes, wolves. The Tsleil-Waututh Nation maintained a village for 4,500 years near Belcarra, just outside Vancouver.
Figuratively, it’s a long way from Stanley Park but Dennis keeps connected. “Being urban natives, we’re influenced by the big city. It’s very important to keep our cultural balance.”