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Six Indigenous Tourism Innovators in Ontario awarded Mentorships and Financial Support

Press Release

Aundeck Omni Kaning, ON – Six finalists who made winning pitches for the Indigenous Tourism Skode Program were each awarded a $5,000 non-repayable financial contribution, mentorship and additional partner support to advance their new Indigenous tourism ideas to the next level.

The Skode Program is an initiative to spark new Indigenous tourism ideas and experiences that authentically represent, celebrate and promote Indigenous culture, heritage, language, cuisine and communities in Ontario. In Anishinaabemowin, Skode means fire! Indigenous entrepreneurs, non-profits and community groups were invited to apply and share the fire within their hearts. This year, we celebrate the third time the program has been offered in Ontario.

Sixteen applications were submitted from across Ontario with top applicants being invited to present their new tourism idea at the virtual Finalists’ Pitch Sessions held on March 1st and March 2nd. Judge panels of Indigenous tourism leaders and partners selected the six winning applicants.

The 2023 Indigenous Tourism Skode Program winners are:

  1. Emma McLaren, The Bridle Path Equestrian Centre (Ojibway Spirit Horses Programs)
  2. Mandaago Osawamick, ZAAMIKenhs PRODUCTIONS (Indigenous Youth Owned & Operated Short Video Production Service)
  3. Mario Gionet, Walk Among The Trees (Hiking Tours Sharing Indigenous Knowledge & Culture)
  4. Natasha Darling, Two Sisters SUP (Indigenous-led Haudenosaunee Culture & History Tours)
  5. Sarah Sproule, Wayeshkad (Trapline Tours & Accommodations)
  6. Tyler French, CELEBRATION: Event Facility & Museum (Venue Showcasing Indigenous Culture & Artifacts)

New this year, virtual pitch session winners will be invited to a special in-person pitch session on March 15 at the Little Native Hockey League Tournament in Mississauga to compete for a $20,000 grand prize!

The Skode Program is a collaboration between Indigenous Tourism Ontario and the Tourism Innovation Lab, and made possible with support from FedNor Ontario, FedDev Ontario, and TD Bank Group.


“Shtataha, Gwetomnidict! Congratulations to the Indigenous innovators who are making strides and setting an incredible example for us all. We celebrate you and love that we can stand with you through your journey,” said Kevin Eshkawkogan, President & CEO of Indigenous Tourism Ontario.

“We congratulate the 6 winners of our third round of the Skode Program, and are excited to work with them to help develop new and exciting Indigenous tourism initiatives in Ontario,” said Justin Lafontaine, Program Lead for the Tourism Innovation Lab.

About ITO

Indigenous Tourism Ontario (ITO) is the province’s first and only recognized Indigenous tourism organization that focuses on uniting communities, Indigenous organizations and industry leaders to support the growth of Indigenous tourism in Ontario. Through product development and marketing of authentic Indigenous experiences, ITO establishes a platform for Indigenous cultural expression and preservation through tourism. For more information, visit

About the Tourism Innovation Lab

The Tourism Innovation Lab is a non-profit initiative created to find, foster and support new tourism ideas, experiences and partnerships, and to build a community of tourism innovators and entrepreneurs in Canada. Launched in 2018, the Lab and its “Spark” Mentorships & Grants Program have expanded to over 25 regions across Ontario and British Columbia. The Lab is a program of Hackforge and is based at the University of Windsor-EPICentre. For more information, visit

Social media


Facebook: @IndigenousTourismOntario
Twitter: @IndigenousTO
Instagram: @IndigenousTourismOntario

Tourism Innovation Lab

Facebook: @TourismInnovationCanada
Twitter: @TourInnovation
Instagram: @TourismInnovationCanada

Media Contacts

Kevin Eshkawkogan, President and CEO, Indigenous Tourism Ontario 705.368.1919 [email protected]

Justin Lafontaine, Program Lead, Tourism Innovation Lab 416.712.8819 [email protected]

For more information visit

View and download the official press release here.


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