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It takes a village

...to get the full Northern experience

Doug Ashbury
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 20/00) - Former NWT premier Don Morin and his wife Gladys have built a new business from the ground up, literally.

It's called Aurora Village and it's a community of seven teepees located just east of Yellowknife off the Cassidy Point road.

"We're trying to promote the Northwest Territories with its aurora and our Dene-Metis culture," Morin said.

Morin, who added he's always wanted to get into the tourism business, thought fishing might be the best choice. But after selling log homes in Japan he chose a business that combines Northern Lights viewing, which is extremely popular among Japanese, with a cultural component.

It has been estimated that about 5,000 Japanese visit Yellowknife each winter for the thrill of seeing the Northern Lights.

Morin said he markets Aurora Village to Japan-based tour companies with sub-offices in Vancouver.

"The first group was through last week," he said.

Three Japanese have been hired as translator-guides.

"We also had people from Calgary who were in town for a few days and had some free time.

They came out and rented Ski-Doos," he said. "They found us on the Internet."

The village will host its next tour the day after Christmas.

Northern materials

Nestled among the willows along the edge of Jerry Lake near the old Tom mine, the village is built from all Northern materials, Morin adds.

The teepee poles are spruce from near Hay River. The biggest of the seven teepees stands about nine metres high.

Morin adds Northern businesses are a big part of Aurora Village -- from canvas material used in the teepees to flooring material.

And when it comes to keeping warm while gazing up at the Northern Lights, the village offers heated seats.

Known as aurora kotasu, the seats are constructed from fibreglass and equipped with propane heaters.