Talon Point Camp aims to put Burns Lake on the map of Indigenous tourism.
The camp’s three high white tipis are visible from the village and sit on the west end of Burns Lake.
Construction of the tipis was completed in mid-August, mostly by volunteers, as Talon Point owner and manager Rob Charlie told Lakes District News.
“One is 22-feet high, the other two are 16 feet high. It’s open now for day use with the big tipi. People can come and use it for a day,” said Charlie, who is a member of the Burns Lake Band.
More than 100 people from different parts of northwestern British Columbia have visited Talon Point since August.
Charlie envisions that the business side of the project will kick off in the spring, when he plans to begin offering overnight stays in the tipis and boat rentals. He also wants to host retreats and on-site catering, and build a stage for concerts and a gift shop.
“We want to open up a reztaurant,” Charlie said, emphasizing the ‘z’, with a laugh. “The sky’s the limit. It’s finances. You can only do what you can do.”
“If we really get successful we’ll put out a floating stage [on the lake]. We’ve got to create something unique in Burns Lake. We’ve got to do something to keep people here.”
He estimates that once Talon Point is up and running there will be at least eight paid positions created, including cooks working in an outdoor kitchen and others in charge of water activities and camp maintenance.
“Once a month we want to cater to the elders. Invite certain groups of elders out here to have an elders venue, provide them with a meal and have some entertainment,” Charlie said.
The other side of the initiative is aimed at cultural awareness.
“[We’re looking to] create more cultural programming for our youth. We really want to create some outdoor activities for them. The first project we have is a pit house. That’s going to be a big teaching tool. We didn’t live in tipis [traditionally], we lived in pit houses. Access to the pit house site is non-profit for the community at large to experience free of charge as well as some special cultural events and learning opportunities and hopefully interpretive trail walks in the future,” Charlie explained.
Mayor Dolores Funk welcomes the Talon Point project for the various benefits it might offer.
“The authentic experience is likely to draw tourists worldwide. I look forward to seeing the facility up and running and trust the community will not only benefit economically from its existence, but more importantly, culturally.”
So far more than $150,000 has been invested in the site, partly with a loan from All Nations Trust Co (ANTCO) and partly from the federal department of Western Economic Diversification, which will help fund the pit house and marketing activities.
The Burns Lake Band helped pay for one of the tipis and the Village of Burns Lake, for its part donated a long dragon boat which Charlie said he hopes to somehow capitalize on.
“Indigenous tourism is big and it’s growing,” Charlie said. “Small communities like ours are involved in resource extraction, but those have finite lives. Why don’t we develop a beautiful area like this one?”