As public interest in northern Saskatchewan continues to grow, members of the Fond du Lac Dene community have an opportunity to establish and successfully operate tourism-based businesses. The urgency of responding to this opportunity is driven by several factors: increasing pressure from outside business interests to use the Dene's traditional land for mining and tourism; the creation of an all-season road that will improve access from the south; and an under-developed local economy.
In Building Capacity of Fond du Lac Entrepreneurs to Establish and Operate Local Tourism Business: Assessment and Proposed Training, Peter Jonker, Colleen Whitedeer, and Diane McDonald describe and report on a two-part program to: (1) assess both the current knowledge and skills in the community and those necessary for the Dene to be successful in the tourism industry; and (2) encourage the creation of a socio-political environment supportive of entrepreneurship. The authors built on the assumption that the Dene should give tourism development high priority because its practice closely appeals to their traditional land-based values and skills.
The authors interviewed twenty-two volunteer community members to assess their current level of knowledge and skills that would be required for successful tourism entrepreneurship. By comparing the results with tourism industry standards established by the Saskatchewan Tourism Education Council, they determined what further training is required to meet these standards. A training program is proposed.
The interviews determined that most participants have high levels of knowledge and skills land, history, and wildlife, but limited business knowledge and skills. A majority of interviewees were confident of their skills in the areas of professionalism and leadership, program preparation, program delivery, and emergency services. With respect to context and issue awareness, the interviewees felt they know little or nothing about SaskTourism and other government programs, but know a lot about environmentally friendly camping and hiking practices.
In order to identify possible improvements to the socio-political environment for fostering entrepreneurship, five local business operators, as well as the chief and council, were interviewed. The authors recommend to the community that a curriculum be developed for a nine-week tourism entrepreneur training program, that the chief and council strive toward an "Empowerment Model" of governance, and that community members establish a Fond du Lac Community Tourism Development Committee to serve as a community-driven discussion and action forum that supports local tourism business development.
All participants in this study expressed complete support for more locally owned, entrepreneurial tourism businesses. However, they also foresaw many obstacles to business success, including: community jealousy; competition/cooperation issues; unfriendly provincial government regulations/agreements; issues regarding protecting traditional land; lack of education/training; and a need for start-up funding.