Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and Yukon College Partner for on-the-land Interpretive Guiding program

Interpretive Guide students, Matthew Brown and Chelsea Etienne cutting babish for snowshoes they are making. 

Kwanlin (Whitehorse, Yukon) - Champagne and Aishihik First Nations (CAFN) and Yukon College are partnering on a new 21-week Interpretive Guiding course called Dän Dákeyi Uyenjì. The Southern Tutchone name means ‘that person knows our country’ and reflects the land-based nature of the program.

Unlike a typical classroom environment, the program is based in a wall tent on Yukon College’s Ayamdigut campus in Whitehorse with regular backcountry excursions on the land in the CAFN Traditional Territory.

Six CAFN Citizens are participating in the five-month program, which began in late September. Graduates of the program will be equipped with skills and certifications to work as wilderness guides and interpreters, and maintain land-based, culturally-focused employment on their traditional lands.

“Our land holds our stories and our identity as a people. Having guides who have roots in our Traditional Territory brings a whole new dimension to interpretive guiding and also provides opportunities for our student experts to showcase their knowledge,” stated Dän nätthe äda Kaaxnox (CAFN Chief Steve Smith).

The program is broken down into 19 modules, ranging from CAFN Heritage Interpretation to Wilderness Safety and Navigation. During this program, students will receive guidance from Elders and support from others like the Yukon Literacy Coalition to gain business and entrepreneurial skills.

“This experiential program takes place on the land and is primarily hands-on,” said Shelagh Rowles, Executive Director of Communities, Innovation and Development at Yukon College. “The only written components see the students actually writing their own business, financial or marketing plans, which they can then put into practice after completing the program. The students will also leave the program with over a dozen industry certifications in wilderness safety, heritage and interpretation, tourism, and transportation.”

This is a program built in the North, geared towards Indigenous ways of knowing, doing and being, and will directly result in land-based employment and self-employment in rural markets. The design of this program removes the traditional barriers to post-secondary learning and brings passionate and historically under-served Canadians into the economy.

Program participant JT Papequash said he had already considered opening his own guiding business when he heard about the Interpretive Guiding program.

“I want to open a guiding business and take people fishing on Kusawa Lake. My grandfather has many stories from living on the land in the area and I’d like to integrate those stories into the fishing trips. By the end of the program I feel I will be ready to open my business,” said Papequash.

The Dän Dákeyi Uyenjì course falls under CAFN’s Dän Ts’änānän (‘A Blessing for Certain Skills’) Program. Dän Tsʼänānän is a training-to-employment program that supports CAFN Citizens and community members to secure and maintain stable, long-term employment through personalized skills development, training, education and work experience programming. The Dän Ts’änānän program is a four-year $7.5 million project and is funded through the Government of Canada’s Skills and Partnership Fund, which supports projects to help Indigenous workers get the skills they need for long-term employment.

For more information:
Champagne and Aishihik First Nations

Amy McKinnon
CAFN Communications Manager
867.634-4200 ext. 237