On The Land and In Demand: Kylik Kisoun Taylor Finds His Way To Cultural Tourism
“When I came North, the introduction of my culture and access to this beautiful land that we're on ignited something inside of me that was missing,” Kylik Kisoun Taylor recalls. Taylor is from Inuvik, Northwest Territories and now lives in a bushcamp village 16 kilometers north of the town but he grew up in the South in a little town in cottage country called Honey Harbour.
Growing up in a tourism town sparked his interest. He would go exploring, canoeing, trapping and working with a dog team. Raised by outdoorsy parents, they went hunting every year, played sports and spent time on the land. He worked in his dad’s tire shop and didn’t have much connection to culture until they moved north.
Taylor wasn’t a star student but enjoyed school more after the move. He found teachers more accommodating and kids who wanted to play sports just got to play. While he went to university as an adult, he never finished high school. “I ended up just kind of moving out and surviving,” he recounts.
“Being immersed into my culture at 16, the path that put me on… helped me overcome a lot of my traumas”
Connecting with culture changed his life. “It was a really profound experience for me to come back to my culture and so from a really young age I wanted to do something within that realm of either connecting people to culture, or for my job to be something to do with the land,” he continues.
He pursued science for a while but didn’t enjoy the time in office. He eventually found tourism. “I couldn't afford to get out on the land that much. You’ve got to work so much to survive in the north, the cost of living is so high. If you create a job where you're out on the land, and that's your job, learning about your culture, teaching your culture, sharing your culture as part of your job, then you're going to have a better chance of actually retaining that culture and learning,” he explains.
He did it for himself but knew it would benefit others. “I also knew that non-Indigenous people had no access to this amazing way of life and this culture, and so I wanted to share that with them, but also create an avenue for Indigenous people to have access to culturally based jobs,” Taylor reflects. He wanted to help Indigenous people get compensated for their knowledge.
“I didn't want my culture to be like a part time kind of hobby thing. I wanted it to be ingrained into my daily life and that's been my journey.”
Taylor made that dream come true. His daughter has been coming on tours since she was six months old and now watching her start to take over at thirteen has been magical, listening to her talk and teach, showing students how to cut up meat and cook caribou.
Being able to provide that experience to students, to give them a summer job where they get paid to learn about their culture is something Taylor feels will give them the confidence to do whatever they decide to do better. He’s proud of the tours and experiences he’s built, and also of the social impact of the business, the way his profits can allow him to hire more students and give back more to the community.
His advice to youth is to take opportunities; he did and now he gets paid to do things he would happily do for free. He also hopes they will take care of their mental health. He regrets not spending more time talking to elders to help him get more grounded. Without many people to talk to in the beginning, he felt alone on his entrepreneurial journey.
“I think the power of conversation is important, just talk about your ideas and your hopes and dreams and be open that you're wrong and be open to other people's advice,” he remarks. Now he tries to take the mistakes he’s made and the lessons he’s learned and use them to empower entrepreneurs and young people so they don’t have to learn the hard way.
“If the point is to create prosperity for everybody, I'm not going to hoard the information, I'm going to try to help.”
Looking forward, he just wants peace, to live in the bush and for the village to grow organically. They run on solar energy and they’re growing their own food, creating almost no garbage. He wants to help others do the same. “I want my daughter to grow up, knowing how to tan hides, knowing how to create her own medicine, her own food, her own house, and all those things. The tourism thing is just a really cool byproduct of just how we are,” he muses.
“In business, you learn to sell your strengths and hire your weaknesses. I'm an indigenous person who has the skills to live on the land, and I'm open to sharing that experience. That's my strength. I just sell my personality and my family's way of life and the rest of the other stuff can get handled by other people,” Taylor confides.
As a tourism operator, the destination for Taylor is hope. “We're in this amazing opportunity to really change business practices, and how we treat each other and how we travel. I can see the glimmers of hope of this amazing change. I just hope that it keeps on moving forward and everybody gets a chance to live the way they want to live,” he dreams aloud.
When Kylik Kisoun Taylor came North, the introduction of his culture and access to the beautiful land that he was on ignited something inside of him that was missing. Now in the work that he does, he gets to help others find it, too.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
Future Pathways Fireside Chats are a project of TakingITGlobal's Connected North Program.
Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.