March 14, 2019
ITI’s Sahtu Regional Office hit the trails recently - literally. Regional Superintendent Jess Fortner and Business Development Officer Craig Walter completed their spring visits to Tulita and Délįne in true northern fashion; by snowmobile!
For Fortner and Walter, it was an extraordinary opportunity to experience and appreciate the respect that Sahtu residents have for their land and environment. The less-conventional travel was also a way to break some common expectations about how government officials travel and act.
“In general, I think locals expect us to arrive by more-comfortable means; to discuss issues developed on paper and provide PowerPoint presentations,” Walter notes. “Traveling by snowmobile was a way to connect in a relevant way. Our clients seemed surprised, happy and appreciative of the fact that we came the way we came. We got prayers for safe travel from the Chief and Council in Tulita and good conversations all around.”
Ultimately, the purpose of regional visits is to talk with residents about potential collaborations and the supports they need; to meet with local Indigenous governments and to share and understand the economic vision and planning that exists in the NWT’s smaller communities.
It is an opportunity to explain and promote the programs offered by the Department in support of economic development, diversification and growth; to recognize what programs have worked for residents and discuss future funding possibilities.
Fortner and Walter were able to touch base with local trappers and artisans; and had conversations regarding agriculture and tourism ideas for the region. They were even able to complete a number of applications for ITI programs.
Fortner believes that how they travelled was reflected in the success of their trip.
“In everything we do, we want to connect with our clients in a manner that establishes trust and promotes meaningful discussions about how we can help,” Fortner explains. “A good way to connect is to find the common ground on which you can build a relationship. We thought of the ways that many people in the Sahtu still travel from community to community and how we could demonstrate our respect for the Sahtu people by taking our own challenging trip on their land and using traditional routes.”
The trip, while challenging at times with cold mornings, enabled the two ITI representatives to also enjoy some spectacular scenery such as Bear River and Bear Rock.
“Connecting with the land and the people is what makes our jobs and life in the Sahtu so special” Fortner says.