Travel Guide to Canada




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.


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.crossingex­

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 (


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.humanright­

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 ( 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 (


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.circletrai­

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.tourismewe­


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

Food Festival (www.lennoxisla­ 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 ( 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.parkscanad­ ).

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.tourismnew­

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.thetorngat­


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.kwanlindun­culturalce­ 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.travelyuko­

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. adventurec­ ). 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.


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