Kevin Sandy with Iroquois LaCross Program: Six Nations
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1. What made you want to get involved with recreational tourism?
It’s been part of way of life for many years… I saw an opportunity to incorporate our cultural sports programs with cultural tourism, it’s a potential billion dollar industry. The opportunities that go along with it are phenomenal, and I realize that we are just scraping the service.
Being involved with cultural sports programming and events provides a respect and honour for the games that we play. We incorporate the origin of the game and share the importance of keeping them alive.
It’s so important from the perspective of the connectedness and healing aspect to keep these games alive such as the long ball game, which predated modern day baseball – there’s a wide variety of traditional games and it’s important to preserve them and share their story.
The sports side is the easy part – we are also involved with hosting the World Lacrosse Games in 2019 and we’re involved in Pan Am Games this year in Toronto.
We incorporate the teachings that come along with our sports culture and we want to continue to share and spread more awareness. We do a lot of work with school boards, friendship centres, First Nations communities, etc. When we connect and share with people it’s an amazing feeling.
2. Please share some background info about your business and/or tourism venture(s).
I run my own cultural sports program and work in conjunction with Six Nations tourism. Six Nations Tourism developed a cultural tourism strategy a few years ago and they approached me to become involved. We then were encouraged to invite people to come to Six Nations and experience what we have to offer – it comes from the gift of knowledge, our history, and our connection to the land and sharing that with other people.
We are interested in expanding awareness – at the Pan Am games will expand more on our cultural programming. We have cultural programming at all major Lacrosse Tournaments – we look at it as leveraging our brand with an opportunity to share our culture. During our tournaments we put on a mini dinner show about our culture and we have a drive at all traditional games to share our vibrant culture. We will also use this approach at the world indigenous games. We want to be featured in the Olympics. So we are looking to leverage more opportunities.
I rely on and need the people as part of my team – they really help expand and create more awareness which is so important.
3. What is your most popular visitor experience?
It’s the culture, the oral traditions, the way of life… It’s based on family, based on togetherness… it’s what visitors see. We hold a large banquet, start with a thanksgiving address and incorporate culture to kick off our sporting events & tournaments. We share songs and incorporate a role-modeling aspect… we are proud of community accomplishments.
We held a big tournament and had people come from all over. Sharing culture is a tremendous vehicle to share stories and find similarities and to meet different cultures from around the world.
4. How long have you been in operation for?
Iroquois Lacrosse Program – 2008. Find us on facebook at https://www.facebook.com/iroquois.lacrosse.program.
I personally been involved as an ambassador forever. We transferred teachings down to the younger Six Nations and individuals down at Crawford Lake. It’s really important to share and pass down the process and to create a legacy for the community. The people are the driving force of the community – multi-generations.
Starting to see games brought back and keeping our culture and games alive, such as stick ball game tournaments and wooden stick tournaments. We have 14 teams.
5. Approximately how many visitors do you accommodate per year?
There is approx. 2000 participants per tournament… we’re hosting a tournament on September 8 – 10 which brings in 40 teams from across Ontario, which includes 100 plus athletes. We’re hosting the World 2019 Lacrosse Games… the arena can accommodate 3000 people…
We are constantly growing it’s hard to tell how many people come per year.
6. What were some of the main challenges you encountered throughout the years and share how you’ve overcome them?
Time… and outreach – we know that summer time is so busy… We have to leverage and maximize all our time and effort. Our outreach with school boards, First Nations communities, health centres, etc… – the reach is crazy. Overlap is a challenge as well as engaging young people in their late teens early 20s. Our Youth is now looking to be involved and having another avenue. Our programs offer something that can help put resources on the table for them and their young families.
Resourcing is another challenge. We need to have all of the equipment available such as double balls. It’s hard to get the equipment ready… we go out in the bush to make sticks, make our own balls… we even do a traditional stick making demonstration.
We have winter camps and have a winter snow track. We have year round programs.
Year round programming is sometimes a challenge. We have multi-media presentations that they take into the classrooms to do inside. It’s the whole integration of the health & wellness – the self-esteem, confidence building and the connection back to the Creator – all theses games are still being played now! The history was to settle disputes so we are keeping these traditions alive and sharing the story.
7. What does it take to run a successful tourism business?
People and their knowledge – their knowledge of who they are – knowledge of their culture and creating opportunities. Marketing is so important to successfully run a business – knowing how to get out there and create more awareness – there is a need for salesmanship and then merging everything to intertwine with each other. There is a knowledge and confidence of who we are and the connection with the the Spirit.
8. Do you have any stories to share about a memorable experience or encounter you had with a visitor/tourist?
Every time and every event has a story to share – the best part for me is when a teacher or young person comes up and shakes their hand and gives you a smile and in their own language, come up and thank you – you know that you touched someone.
I love to create relationships and know that people will be back.
It’s a nice feeling when Summer Camps want you back… the greatest reward is to be wanted to come back.
9. Do you have any advice to share with other communities, tourism businesses, and entrepreneurs out there?
Examine the assets you have in your community – go out and talk to the people, get ideas, look at the marketplace… examine opportunities that exist in your own community and find ways to attract people to your communities and then continue to drive people back to your community. Keep economic opportunities in your community. You’ll find out that opportunities are there already – learn and study as much as you can about your community and the industry that you want to get involved with. Then you present your idea in a professional manor.
10. Would you like your business to be featured on the Ontariotravel.net site and the ATO site?