VICTORIA -- A local First Nations community has received funding to embark on a new adventure to promote cultural and tourism opportunities in and around the Victoria area.

The Songhess First Nations received over $600,000 to develop the Songhees Marine Trail, which will highlight a network of 12 significant cultural and recreational sites along the shorelines of Lekwungen Territory.

The trail ranges from Esquimalt Harbour to Victoria’s Inner Harbour, through Oak Bay and Cadboro Bay, and includes Tl’ches Islands (also known as Chatam and Discovery Islands).

The Songhees Nation recognises tourism as a key economic driver for its community and an opportunity to increase its presence on Lekwungen territory in a meaningful way.

“This means so much to our people, you know, given this opportunity for people to understand who we are, where we come from and actually explaining all of Victoria to them,” says Cecelia Dick, cultural tourism supervisor for the Songhees First Nation.

“It’s given us that opportunity to tell our story the way we want it to be told.”

Tourism associated with the marine trail will mean the development of new skills training and employment opportunities for First Nations youth in the community.

Hospitality and logistics jobs related to arts, culture, land management, transportation and food service are expected to grow due to the project.

A 12-passenger boat will also be part of the trail network, creating accessibility by land and sea, and will be used for both tourism and educational purposes.

The boat will be able to take First Nations youth on conservation tours to the Tl’ches Islands, where they will learn about their people’s connection to the land, native plants used for food and medicine and the many animals and marine life in the area.

In two years, the Songhees Marine Trail plan will expand to include three-to-five-day packaged itineraries, conservation programs, expanded tour programs on land and sea and infrastructure development.

Some examples of operating or visitor-ready experiences on the route include: cultural canoe tours, the Seven Signs of the Lekwungen tour, ecology/nature walks, First Nations guided marine tours, meetings and events, retreats, bannock-making, storytelling, art demonstrations and workshops.