Tsimka Martin, 35, poses with a traditional First Nations paddle in front of a foggy Lone Cone Mountain. Martin said her main motivation and pride after seven years of operating T’ashii Paddle School was mentoring other young guides. (Nora O’Malley / Westerly News)

Tofino’s First Nations canoe tour company paddling new path

Tsimka Martin earns BC Indigenous Business Award

T’ashii Paddle School, Tofino’s premier First Nations canoe tour operator and the 2019 BC Indigenous Business Awards winner for ‘Business of the Year’, is up for sale.

T’ashii owner and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Tsimka Martin said she is proud of what she built with her ex-partner, Emre Bosut, over the last seven years.

“My business is for sale and I am looking for the right buyers,” Martin told the Westerly News over lattes on the patio at Tofino Sea Kayaking.

“I would love to see T’ashii continue, and I’m excited to explore other work within my life,” she said.

Bosut will continue the paddle boarding, surfing and first aid side of the business under the new name ‘SWELL Education’.

“Tsimka is selling the canoe side of things. I’m stoked to keep things going with SUP tours, rentals, and lessons,” said Bosut, a member of the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department.

T’ashii Paddle School launched in 2013 with one traditional dugout cedar canoe. While Martin said the first couple years were a struggle to get bookings, news of Tofino’s unique Indigenous guided coastal tours slowly spread through word of mouth, and by 2019, T’ashii Paddle had three canoes on the water and employed a good number of Nuu-chah-nulth locals.

“My main motivation and pride after seven years was mentoring other young guides into the [interpreter] position,” said Martin adding that she is committed to helping with the transition and training of whoever buys the company.

Guests aboard T’ashii canoe tours were treated to a scenic paddle of Clayoquot Sound balanced by personal stories and First Nations history of the area.

“I was happy to have a platform to talk about residential schools and the potlatch ban. It’s so important to talk about these things in order to come to a place of understanding,” Tsimka said.

Tofino Mayor Josie Osborne nominated T’ashii Paddle School for the British Columbia Achievement Foundation Indigenous Business Award. She publicly congratulated Martin and Bosut via on her Facebook Page.

“[They] have put so much passion and dedication in creating a business that employs and mentors youth, minimizes its impact on the natural environment, honours the teachers and mentors who helped them, opens the eyes of visitors from all corners of the world to the treasures of the Tla-o-qui-aht territory, and pursues excellence in everything they do. You inspire all of us in the way you and your business truly represent the values and knowledge embedded in this place we are so privileged to call home,” wrote Osborne on Sept. 10. In Nuu-chah-nulth language, the word ‘T’ashii’ is translated to ‘pathway’ or ‘doorway’, explains Martin.

“T’ashii gave me some really awesome tools. It helped me develop my leadership skills and find my voice,” she said.

T’ashii donated one per cent of their net income to the Tribal Parks Allies Program.

nora.omalley@westerlynews.caLike us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

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