Whatì residents hopeful for more local hires as Tłı̨chǫ economic arm takes over N.W.T. fishing lodge

An overhead view of Lac La Martre Adventures, a fishing lodge near Whatì, N.W.T. The lodge was acquired by the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation in March.  (NWTFishing.com - image credit)
An overhead view of Lac La Martre Adventures, a fishing lodge near Whatì, N.W.T. The lodge was acquired by the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation in March. (NWTFishing.com - image credit)

Residents in Whatì, N.W.T., are excited for the future of a nearby fishing lodge after the economic arm of the Tłı̨chǫ government took it over.

The Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation previously owned 40 per cent of Lac La Martre Adventures, but became the majority owner in March. The lodge had previously been a joint venture with the investment corporation and two individuals, since 2010.

Some Whatì residents accused the former owners of not hiring enough Tłı̨chǫ guides and employees, and many are now hopeful this will be changing.

"The problem in the past with hiring southerners is that we have a lot of people who are guides and a lot of unemployed young people with a lot of skills that could have easily worked out there. But normally it's always the same people every year and that has affected the community a lot," said Shaun Moosenose, who lives in Whatì.

Luke Carroll/CBC
Luke Carroll/CBC

CBC News attempted to contact the previous owner over Facebook, but didn't receive an immediate response.

Moosenose said he may look into work at the lodge as he's interested in the tourism industry.

Feedback session for lease renewal

In June 2022, the Tłı̨chǫ government posted on Facebook that it would be holding a feedback session for the Lac La Martre Lodge as its lease was up for renewal.

That prompted several comments, echoing Moosenose and saying that the lodge should hire more people from the Tłı̨chǫ as it's located on their lands.

Whatì Chief Alfonz Nitsiza said this is a complaint he's also aware of.

"I heard that too, before it was run by somebody else from down south, and they usually bring their own guides — and that was the issue and we made them know about it," he said.

Mark Rendell/CBC
Mark Rendell/CBC

Moosenose is hopeful that the Tłı̨chǫ ownership means more local guides getting work, and the opportunity to share their culture to visitors.

"They could tell stories and take them to historical sites. We have a lot of places where there's a lot of stories of our ancestors," he said.

"There's a few gravesites that they could visit, pay their respects instead of just showing up here and just fishing."

Preparing for the season

Mark Brajer is the CEO of the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation.

He said the lodge is preparing to open by mid-June and there will likely be few changes in the upcoming season.

"I don't think that's going to change tomorrow because again, we're opening literally next week," he said, adding he expects there will be more local guides hired in the coming years.

Luke Carroll/CBC
Luke Carroll/CBC

"Do I expect it to go that direction? Absolutely."

Brajer said he believes this year they've hired a few more Tłı̨chǫ guides than in previous years, though he didn't say how many.

But he added the aim of the new ownership is to benefit the community and the Tłı̨chǫ.

He said the Tłı̨chǫ Investment Corporation is still working on a long term strategy for the lodge.

Brajer said Lac La Martre Adventures is currently undergoing renovations for the summer, including upgrades on the cabins.