Douglas Neasloss leads eco-tourism excursions throughout Klemtu, a small island on BC’s central coast that is home to the Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation. As a heritage interpreter/guide, he guides community walking tours, kayak and speed boat trips, and outings to see Kermode (Spirit) bears, grizzlies and other wildlife. He also interprets for guests the significance of totem poles, petroglyphs and Klemtu’s natural surroundings, including sampling of native foods and medicinal plants.
Douglas emphasizes that his role is to enrich visitors’ understanding of Klemtu’s culture. “You can’t just tell someone: ‘this is a salmon hatchery,” he says. “You have to explain everything about it: its history, how it’s used, how it works… so visitors get the full experience.” He says public speaking and confidence are his most important job skills. “At first, I wasn’t very comfortable with the speaking part. But my confidence grew once I realized that we know our culture better than anyone else, so we are the best ones to describe it to others.”
In the five years he’s been with Klemtu Tourism, Douglas has taken First Host and SuperHost training, courses in wilderness first aid, open water diving, kayak guiding and navigation. He is certified in bear guiding, and has studied with a botanist to learn about local plants. Douglas had no specific training before entering his field, and says he was initially hired “mostly because they really needed someone.” However, he had a keen desire to learn as much as he could about his heritage, and to share that knowledge with others. “For me, it was very important to understand my culture,” he says. “My grandparents passed on when I was quite young, so I didn’t have the chance to learn a lot of what they might have told me about our way of life.”
Douglas credits Klemtu’s elders for providing him with the knowledge he needs to do his job well. “The elders have taught me so much: about traditional foods, understanding what aspects of our culture to share, and what to respect and protect for ourselves. For instance, I don’t take visitors to the burial boxes. That’s a sacred place and the elders helped me understand those boundaries.”
One of the job’s biggest challenges is promoting Klemtu and the Kitasoo/Xaixais First Nation in a culturally sensitive manner. Personally, Douglas considers it his role to promote cultural understanding, and he works to be attentive to the sensitivities of all involved.