Like most teenagers, Wyatt was eager to leave home and explore the world at the first chance he got. He loved his time skiing the slopes of Jasper, Alberta—but when he returned to Churchill, Manitoba to help his parents run their family business, he had a newfound appreciation for his home and cultural roots.
Today, Wyatt co-owns Wapusk Adventures, leading dog sledding adventures and northern lights tours for visitors from all around the globe. Coming home strengthened his ties to his family, his community, and his Indigenous heritage—and leading the family business became another way for him to continue sharing his culture with the world.
As a leader of Indigenous tourism, Wyatt is proud to call Churchill home. Now, he’s raising his young son in the same place he grew up, and he’s eager to continue the legacy his father began.
Wyatt Daley, part owner of Wapusk Adventures, looks back on his childhood fondly. “I loved growing up in Churchill,” he says. “Growing up going to our cabin, camping in our tent frame, going 60 miles up the Churchill River with my dad to go moose hunting.” Now, he’s following in his dad’s footsteps, returning to his hometown to help with the family business and lead dog sledding adventures and northern lights tours—all while sharing his Indigenous culture with visitors as they experience Churchill’s natural beauty.
Leaving the Frontier
As Manitoba’s northernmost community, Wyatt believes that Churchill is truly something special. “How many isolated communities are left out there?” he asks. “You’re not looking over your shoulder for somebody walking behind you, but you’ve got to always keep your eyes open for polar bears.”
Indigenous tourism has been a part of Wyatt’s life since the age of two, when Wyatt moved into his family’s new gift shop, connected to their home. Growing up around his family’s dog sledding business, he met people from all over the world who’d come to work in Churchill, inspiring him to travel himself. He eventually found himself in Jasper, Alberta, where he worked on the ski hill as a self-proclaimed “ski bum” and ran raft tours on the Athabasca River in the summertime. Over time, he added to the tour, telling stories of his Cree and Métis heritage, and his love of sharing Indigenous culture through tourism was born.
Generations of Connection
Although Wyatt enjoyed his time away, he eventually realized something was missing—his family, the natural landscape, and his home. Wyatt moved back to Churchill, joining his family’s business as part owner of Wapusk Adventures.
Wapusk Adventures is a tour company and more, offering dog sledding, summer excursions, a gift shop, and a long-distance racing kennel. The excursions they offer are more than just activities, however. “We’re really based around Indigenous tourism, that’s a big part of our story and who we are,” explains Wyatt. “When people come to see us, they’re coming for a dog sled ride, but I feel they walk away with a lot more than that.”
“We’re an excursion,” says Wyatt, “but with what we do, our Indigenous culture and our family … we have lots of people that tell us that they came to Churchill for the polar bears, but we ended up being the highlight of their trip.”
A New Age of Tourism
To Wyatt, his guests are old friends, with lots to catch up on after a long time apart. He strives to make it a personal experience. “In tourism,” he explains, “some people are talking at you and not talking to you. They’re saying, ‘there’s this over here, and there’s that over there,’ but people want to really connect and walk away feeling a part of the experience and a part of the community. It really sticks in people’s hearts.” Making these connections with strangers is one of his favourite parts of working in the industry.
For Wyatt, Indigenous tourism is linked to reconciliation. People want authentic experiences and storytelling, and Indigenous tourism fills that role. “The tourism industry is a great outlet for Indigenous people to get that spark—to share their heritage, which is a big part of Indigenous culture.”
Wyatt has had the unique experience of being able to see the industry change over the course of his life. “Being able to see how Churchill continues to grow with the tourism industry, it’s really special to see and experience firsthand,” Wyatt says. “If you want to experience authentic Indigenous culture, tourism can take you there.”