Haida Style Expeditions
Ecotourism / Guided Recreation
Haida Owned and Operated Graduate
James Cowpar, graduate of the Haida Owned and Operated program, co-founded Haida Style Expeditions in 2000 with his twin brother William Shawn Cowpar and a small fleet of kayaks. With their expansion into sport fishing and the addition of a Titan 240XI zodiac to their tour network, the one-hundred percent Haida owned and operated company is making big waves in the Haida Gwaii economy. At the heart of this successful business is a concern with a reciprocity between the company and surroundings that is reflected in the actions of the co-founders.
The Cowpar brothers, descendants of the West Coast Tsaahl Eagle Clan on Haida Gwaii, experienced the rich tradition and stories of their Haida heritage as children. This upbringing provided the brothers with a deep love for their land and a desire to protect Haida culture. These experiences nourished a dream to combine their love of the outdoors with a desire to contribute to the revitalization of Haida culture. By offering tours to visitors through Gwaii Haanas (Islands of Beauty) National Park Reserve, they would be able to share their tradition and stories, educate visitors, and showcase the incredible beauty of their homeland.
After beginning guiding tour groups with kayaks in 2000, the Cowpar brothers expanded into guided fishing tours. After sharing Haida fishing practices with visitors for a number of years, James and William registered as official guide operators with Gwaii Haanas where they began providing cultural eco-tours to visitors. These eco-tours have gained considerable interest and have been recommended to visitors of Haida Gwaii by several media outlets, such as the Globe and Mail. In 2012, the brothers purchased a Zodiac to enable them to expand their tour locations and share more of Haida Gwaii with their guests.
Every Haida Style Expeditions tour has Haida culture at the heart and a deliberate focus to educate visitors on those cultural practices and beliefs. On cultural eco-tours, visitors have the opportunity to travel by Zodiac to ancient villages of the Haida Nation, walk from old growth forests to intertidal zones teeming with an abundance of marine life, enjoy a traditional meal, and watch the abundant wildlife of the islands. Throughout these tours, guides use the traditional practice of storytelling to help visitors develop a greater understanding of Haida traditions and gain an appreciation for the land and water that create Haida Gwaii.
Moreover, the eco-tours incorporate another element to strengthen visitors’ bonds with the land and water of Haida Gwaii: protection through clean up. At Haida Style Expeditions, guides take visitors to remote locations that are heavily impacted by waste issues that result “from the Great Pacific garbage patch, industrial waste, [and] fishing vessels,” carrying over from outside of the Haida Gwaii region. Haida Style Expeditions guides also invite guests to participate in cleaning the ancient villages, which many guests find to be a rewarding process. This unique approach to tours aims to help protect national parks on Haida Gwaii while also instilling a deeper understanding of the land with visitors.
In addition to improving the land visited by Haida Style Expeditions after each tour, the company focuses on another aspect of Haida culture: mentorship. James and Shawn provide opportunities for Haida youth to obtain experience in the tourism industry each summer, with some youth going on to create their own entrepreneurial ventures, demonstrating the impact of their approach to business with reciprocity at the center on the forthcoming generation.
“Reciprocity is at the heart of our business and the ACE program complemented that.”
James also explains that the “top priority at Haida Style is offering opportunities to learn – whether it’s our clients on tours learning about life on Haida Gwaii, or local youth looking to learn the ropes of the business.”
We at ACE are excited about the work that Haida Style Expeditions is doing on Haida Gwaii for the local economy; the land and water of Haida Gwaii; and the revitalization of Haida culture. We believe strongly in the value of mentorship and sustainable development towards strengthening the community, and Haida Style Expeditions’ embodies this approach to business on Haida Gwaii, which the community can be excited about going forward.
James Cowpar is a graduate of the Aboriginal Canadian Entrepreneurs Program. Many Aboriginal Entrepreneurs have graduated from the award winning ACE Program, which focuses on bridging Aboriginal culture with the key elements of entrepreneurship and business creation. The ACE program made possible through the collective efforts of our partnering regions, communities, institutions, and faculties.
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