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New program for tourists
Gjoa Haven sets up traditional camp as well as arts and crafts display for visitors

Jeanne Gagnon
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, September 17, 2011

As cruise ship visitors arrived in Gjoa Haven last month, they were greeted by elders in traditional dress among caribou and sealskin tents and a styrofoam iglu.

NNSL photo/graphic

A traditional campsite, featuring caribou and seal skin tents as well as a styrofoam iglu, greeted cruise ship passengers in Gjoa Haven this summer. A hamlet official said the display was generally well received by tourists. - photo courtesy of Stevenson Krug

The replica of a traditional campsite was part of a new program the community developed for cruise ship visits, said Ed Stewart, Gjoa Haven's economic development officer.

The first visitors to experience the new program were from the MV Bremen on Aug. 25 and MV Clipper Adventurer on Aug. 28.

Everything went well, said Stewart.

"We established a traditional campsite down by the landing site with a welcoming committee of elders in traditional dress and student interpreters," he said. "We had a traditional caribou tent, traditional sealskin tent and an iglu, which was constructed out of styrofoam. It was very well received by the cruise ships. Gjoa Haven is a community that is well steeped in traditional ways so we thought it was a good way to introduce the cruise ship guests to the traditional Inuit culture."

The hamlet has also been buying arts and crafts from local artists since February to build up a sizeable inventory, and is selling them on the artists' behalf to visitors. With this initiative, Stewart said they were able to offer more items than last year and are encouraging spending from cruise shop visitors.

"We're buying everything from sewn goods, jewelry, sculpture, tapestries, and traditional tools. At this point, we have goods now that represent some 50 different artisans in our community," he said.

"The German ship was not a big spender and (we had) very poor sales. I think they need to maybe learn a little better appreciation for our artwork.

"The Canadian cruise ship was a very good event for us. They did purchase a lot of arts and crafts and sales approached $10,000."

Generally speaking, said Stewart, the community received positive feedback from both cruise ships with visitors highlighting their interest in the traditional campsite.

"It was something unique that other communities did not offer so that was of interest to both cruise ships," he said.

Gjoa Haven is considering expanding the display of both the traditional campsite and arts and crafts, he added.

For the latter, the community is set to start constructing a new heritage centre this month with the aim to have it completed by next June or July. The one-storey, $2.5-million facility will have a section of its approximately 307-square-metre space dedicated to exhibits and a retail store for arts and crafts, said Stewart.

Stewart said the hope is to have the retail store operational by the next cruise ship season. As for the exhibits, he added he is unsure if they will be completed by then.

"In the future years, we will have a much larger venue with a much broader selection of arts and crafts," he said. "We've got great expectations our sales will be significant in future years."

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