The Telemia Tourism Lodge near Fort Providence, N.W.T., may be new but it has a long history in the area.
A few minutes by boat downriver from Fort Providence, the lodge is newly renovated and in a scenic location that Deh Gah Got’ie First Nation Chief Joachim Bonnetrouge describes as “very peaceful, and very serene, very quiet.”
Bonnetrouge said that in the days when people traveled by dog teams, a woman lived there who traded with the travellers and she would supply them with dog feed.
“She was a very important part of the Dene traditional economy in those days,” Bonnetrouge said.
Later, it became a place for healing and community gatherings for the Deh Gah Got’ie First Nation.
Deh Gah Got’ie First Nation Councillor Michael Vandell said the idea to revive the area as a community gathering place started more than 25 years ago.
“We started that and just kept working every year,” Vandell said.
As the years went by, the vision expanded to create a tourism lodge.
The community worked together to renovate the camp, upgrading the flooring, heating, and lighting, and they’ll be building a large shower unit, with men’s and women’s showers. (“With the hot water, of course,” Vandell said.)
Vandell said they’ll be able to customize trips for the people staying there, from fishing to workshops to weddings.
“Our people are natural, on-the-land people, and guides,” he said. “There’s just a natural fit.”
The goal is to have everything complete by Aug. 1.
After more than 20 years, Vandell said he’s excited to see all of the hard work come to fruition.
“It’s going to be rewarding,” he said. “People are excited. So, yeah, it’ll be nice to have this up and running, and people coming and us looking after them.”
Chief Bonnetrouge is also looking forward to seeing the vision of a tourism lodge become a reality.
“What we could offer to the world? The culture, the special relationship we have with the water, with the land, that should be eventually made into a product that we could share with other people,” Bonnetrouge said. “We do have something very special here.”