ABO­RIG­I­NAL TOURISM LEADS

IN­TER­NA­TIONAL VIS­ITS

Travel Guide to Canada - - Table Of Contents - BY GRE­GORY B. GAL­LAGHER

Like cer­e­mo­nial smoke waft­ing across sa­cred lands, Abo­rig­i­nal tourism is qui­etly evolv­ing through­out Canada’s provinces and ter­ri­to­ries, and at­tract­ing vigourous in­ter­na­tional tourism ef­forts into Canada. Ac­cord­ing to the Abo­rig­i­nal Tourism As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada (ATAC) and Des­ti­na­tion Canada, this mar­ket sec­tor is be­com­ing a pow­er­ful and com­pelling op­tion for for­eign trav­ellers, as well as home­grown va­ca­tion­ers, seek­ing vi­able op­por­tu­ni­ties for their dol­lar.

Tribal in­ter­ests na­tion­wide are es­tab­lish­ing a rich menu of unique ac­tiv­i­ties for even the most trav­elled clients. First Na­tions travel and tourism prod­ucts and ser­vices of­fer last­ing me­mories steeped in the dy­namic cul­tures of the most an­cient peo­ple of Canada.

Tim­ing is paramount for mean­ing­ful suc­cess in the volatile tourism in­dus­try, and it ap­pears Abo­rig­i­nal tourism is blessed in this re­gard, head­ing for a record year of for­tu­itous hap­pen­ings coast-to-coast-to­coast. Fol­low­ing the dra­matic Parks Canada dis­cov­er­ies of the long-lost Franklin ships, Ere­bus and Ter­ror, over the last two years, in­ter­est in the North is ever more ro­bust. The 2015 fed­eral elec­tion in Canada also re­flects a newly-charged na­tional Abo­rig­i­nal con­scious­ness with the elec­tion of ten First Na­tions Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment, a first in the his­tory of the coun­try.

WEST

The Cross­ing at Ghost River is an enchanted overnight Abo­rig­i­nal ad­ven­ture in the Al­berta foothills be­tween Cal­gary and Banff. Guides lead vis­i­tors on a jour­ney span­ning no­tions of time and cul­ture, high­lighted by tra­di­tional drum­ming and unique sto­ry­telling, walk­ing through cap­ti­vat­ing land­scapes to learn about the heal­ing plants grow­ing un­der­foot, and watch­ing authen­tic Abo­rig­i­nal cui­sine be­ing made. Choose to stay in their com­fort­able lodge for one or two nights, set on 145 pic­turesque acres, or book your cor­po­rate re­treat and mix busi­ness with plea­sure Rock­ies-style (www.crossing­ex­pe­ri­ence.ca).

Spirit Bear Lodge, in Bri­tish Co­lum­bia’s tiny cen­tral coast com­mu­nity of Klemtu, is 150 nau­ti­cal miles by float plane from Van­cou­ver Is­land’s north­ern-most town of Port Hardy. Pro­tected from the Pa­cific Ocean tu­mult by the largest in­tact coastal tem­per­ate rain­for­est on the planet, trav­ellers make the ef­fort to view one of our world’s great nat­u­ral mys­ter­ies—the ker­mode or “spirit bear.” A visit here also al­lows you to en­counter orca whales, griz­zly bears, ea­gles, ravens and a host of other in­hab­i­tants of this re­mark­able lo­cale (www.spir­it­bear.com).

CEN­TRAL

The Cana­dian Mu­seum for Hu­man Rights (CMHR) opened in Win­nipeg, Man­i­toba in 2014, and has al­ready won dozens of awards, in­clud­ing the Na­tional Cul­tural

Tourism Award from the Travel In­dus­try As­so­ci­a­tion of Canada (TIAC). Izzie Asper’s life­long dream beckons vis­i­tors to ar­chi­tect An­toine Pre­dock’s as­tound­ing ex­te­rior de­sign, mod­elled af­ter ice, clouds and stone, and set in a field of sweet grass at the leg­endary Forks of the Red River. Ven­ture in­doors where de­signer Ralph Ap­ple­baum’s amaz­ing in­ter­ac­tive in­stal­la­tions high­light First Na­tions cul­ture in a mes­mer­iz­ing jour­ney through time and ge­og­ra­phy, lan­guage and tra­di­tion. Don’t miss the “Our Canada, My Story” video pre­sen­ta­tion cel­e­brat­ing Canada’s 150th An­niver­sary, the Wit­ness Blan­ket ex­hi­bi­tion or the mu­seum’s on-site bou­tique where ex­cit­ing fair trade and hand­made me­men­tos cel­e­brat­ing Indige­nous cul­ture world­wide can be pur­chased (www.hu­man­rights.ca).

If your spirit needs re­newal, go west to visit Saskatchewan’s North­ern Plains Peo­ple. Body/mind/spirit ex­pe­ri­ences un­fold at the Wanuskewin Her­itage Park; wit­ness a buf­falo hunt and ex­plore medicine wheel cir­cles to learn about the re­la­tion­ship lo­cals main­tain with heal­ing plants, culi­nary wis­dom, and the cy­cles of the an­i­mals (www.wanuskewin.com). Fe­bru­ary is Abo­rig­i­nal Sto­ry­telling Month, and there is no bet­ter place to ex­pe­ri­ence this rich tra­di­tion than at the Saskatchewan In­dian Cul­tural Cen­tre in Saska­toon (www.sicc.sk.ca).

EAST

Fol­low the cer­e­mo­nial smoke of hos­pi­tal­ity east to On­tario, home to Man­i­toulin Is­land, the largest fresh­wa­ter lake is­land in the world. Indige­nous ex­pe­ri­ences range from soft ad­ven­ture to wilder­ness eco-ad­ven­tures and ed­u­ca­tional in­ter­pre­tive tours. High on any­one’s list should be the Great Spirit Cir­cle Trail’s cor­nu­copia of pack­ages, such as Medicine Walks, Le­gends of the Land Rid­ing Trail, Demwe Cy­cling Tour, or the lux­u­ri­ous Horse and Teepee overnight ad­ven­ture, which leaves the Honora Bay Rid­ing Sta­ble at noon and re­turns the day af­ter at 2:00 in the af­ter­noon. Savour the camp­fire din­ner, medicine walk, sto­ry­telling and drum­ming around the fire, as well as swim­ming with horses and break­fast the next morn­ing (www.cir­cle­trail.com).

Also on Man­i­toulin is the an­nual Wi­ik­wemikoong Cul­tural Fes­ti­val. East­ern North Amer­ica's old­est com­pe­ti­tion pow­wow is run­ning this year from Au­gust 5 through 7 on Canada's only of­fi­cially rec­og­nized Unceded Ter­ri­tory. Tra­di­tional danc­ing, hand drum­ming, authen­tic Na­tive cui­sine and crafts with in­ter­ac­tive work­shops abound. Plus you can even pur­chase the new Anishi­naabe­mowin Lan­guage App from the Google Play Store, fea­tur­ing 32 cat­e­gories in Three Fires Con­fed­er­acy lan­guages of Odawa, Ojibwe and Pot­tawatami. Wik­wemikong Tourism hosts sev­eral cul­tural tour pack­ages that show­case the life­styles and tra­di­tions of the Three Fires Peo­ple. Sat­isfy your need for cul­ture and out­door ad­ven­ture in one of Canada's largest Indige­nous ter­ri­to­ries.

Just out­side the UNESCO site of Old Québec City, you may dis­cover what the Huron-Wen­dake com­mu­nity calls “the his­tory we never told you.” Stay in an authen­tic Abo­rig­i­nal 4-star bou­tique ho­tel called Hô­tel-Musée Pre­mières Na­tions, grace­fully built along the banks of the Aki­awen­rahk (St.Charles River). In­spired from tra­di­tional long­houses, units are con­structed with nat­u­ral ma­te­ri­als such as

stone, leather and wood. Or in­vite the whole fam­ily to stay in a long­house, the First Na­tions sym­bol of fam­ily, hos­pi­tal­ity and the leg­endary wel­come of Indige­nous Peo­ples world­wide. This op­tion en­cour­ages vis­i­tors to ex­pe­ri­ence the myths and le­gends, to taste the tra­di­tional bread (ban­nock), have a fire keeper tend the em­bers as well as your dreams through­out the night, plus you’ll have a reg­u­lar room in the ho­tel for mod­ern con­ve­niences, and break­fast the next day at La Traite res­tau­rant (www.touris­mewen­dake.ca).

MAR­ITIMES

Mi’kmaq pow­wows on Prince Ed­ward Is­land’s Len­nox Is­land ig­nite in late July; the hun­gry crowds go to the Abo­rig­i­nal

Food Fes­ti­val (www.lennox­is­land.com). The In­dian Art & Craft store makes its home on the peace­ful shores of fa­mous Malpeque Bay.

Across this bay in Nova Sco­tia, elders share sto­ries about cre­ation at the Wagmatcook Cul­ture and Her­itage Cen­tre (www.wagmatcook.com). Lis­ten to their an­cient tales teach­ing how to live prop­erly, how an­i­mals in­ter­act with the el­e­ments, and de­tails about pow­er­ful cer­e­mo­nial tools of their so­ci­ety—like the medicine wheel. Less than two hours from Hal­i­fax, view pet­ro­glyphs cre­ated by the Mi’kmaq First Na­tions Peo­ple in the 18th and 19th cen­turies at Ke­jimku­jik Na­tional Park, where it is also pos­si­ble to camp out un­der the stars (www.parkscanada.gc.ca ).

New Brunswick calls ev­ery­one in­ter­ested in at­tend­ing pow­wows to a full sea­sonal menu of op­tions, from St. Mary’s First Na­tion Pow­wow which takes place June 16 to 18 at the Devon In­dian Re­serve #24, to the Pabineau First Na­tion Pow­wow at the new Fly­ing Ea­gle Memo­rial Pow­wow Grounds dur­ing the first week­end of July, or the Eel Ground First Na­tion Pow­wow in mid-July (www.tourism­new­brunswick.ca).

New­found­land and Labrador sum­mon out­door ad­ven­tur­ers to their ma­jes­tic Torn­gat Moun­tains Inuit-led Base Camp ex­pe­ri­ence, im­mers­ing par­tic­i­pants in the cul­ture of this dreamy ge­og­ra­phy and giv­ing ac­cess to stun­ning wildlife view­ing. The high­est peaks in Canada east of the Rock­ies frame a mag­i­cal mix of fjords, rivers, flood plains, and coastal wilder­ness. There is no place on the planet like the Torn­gat Moun­tains and the Base Camp trek is a clas­sic one-of-a-kind mem­ory for trav­ellers (www.thetorn­gats.com).

NORTH

The Yukon’s White­horse wa­ter­front is the site for this year’s Adäka Cul­tural Fes­ti­val held at the Kwan­lin Dün Cul­tural Cen­tre from June 30 to July 6 (www.kwan­lin­dun­cul­tur­al­cen­tre.com). This pop­u­lar event mixes tra­di­tional and con­tem­po­rary mu­si­cal per­form­ers and cre­ative artists from lo­cal First Na­tions tribes, as well as guests from Alaska, Green­land, B.C. and North­west Ter­ri­to­ries. The mélange of en­ter­tain­ment, to­gether with unique work­shops and hand­made crafts—im­bued with the in­fec­tious Yukon spirit—guar­an­tees vis­i­tors mem­o­rable fun (www.trave­lyukon.com).

If Nu­navut and the Cana­dian Arc­tic are on your bucket list, con­tact Ad­ven­ture Canada for ac­cess to Canada’s north­ern pas­sages aboard a cruise ship (www. ad­ven­ture­canada.com ). Fol­low whales, seals and nar­whals in small Zo­diac boats up close, pho­to­graph en­dan­gered po­lar bears, or bask in the other-world­li­ness of the aurora bo­re­alis in the com­fort of your ship.

CAL­GARY STAM­PEDE PA­RADE, AB • SHUTTERSTOCK

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