Travel Guide to Canada
INDIGENOUS TOURISM: RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Ojibway First Nations Peoples in Canada and the U.S. have a simple yet complex philosophy called “How To Live Right,” or in their language “Midewiwin.” Most Indigenous communities have similar traditions at the heart of their family and professional lives.
Now the Travel and Tourism Industry is witnessing these methods as an integral part of Indigenous Tourism’s recipe for success across all areas of Canada.
Timing is paramount for meaningful success in our tourism industry, but Indigenous Tourism appears to be heading for another record year of fortuitous happenings coast-to-coast-to-coast. Following the dramatic Parks Canada discoveries of the long-lost Franklin ships, Erebus and Terror, interest in the North is ever more robust. The 2018 federal budget also reflects a newly-charged national consciousness with Justin Trudeau’s visibility across the Indigenous diaspora more evident than his predecessors, and the long-awaited Truth and Reconciliation hearings signalling significant and meaningful progress.
Tribal interests nationwide continue to establish a dynamic menu of unique activities for even the most travelled clients. Indigenous travel and tourism products and services offer lasting memories, steeped in the dynamic cultures of the most ancient people of Canada.
The Crossing at Ghost River is an enchanted overnight Indigenous adventure in the Alberta foothills between Calgary and Banff. Guides lead corporate or private 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 cuisine being made. Choose to stay in their comfortable lodge for one or two nights, set on 145 picturesque acres, or book a 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 the 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 setting, located within the Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations traditional territory and co-managed by the Kitasoo Nation and the Province of British
The Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) opened in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2014, and has already won over 37 awards, including the Best Non-Profit Social Media Marketing Campaign, the Award of Outstanding Achievement in New Media and the National Cultural Tourism Award from the Travel Industry Association of Canada (TIAC). Architect Antoine Predock’s magnetic design is modelled after ice, clouds and stone, and set in a field of sweet grass at the legendary Forks of Manitoba’s Red River. Venture indoors where designer Ralph Applebaum’s eminent interactive installations highlight Indigenous culture
in a hypnotic journey through time and geography, language and tradition. 2018 is the 70th anniversary year of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the museum is featuring voices of Indigenous youth across Canada through a new website, where human rights and reconciliation are the focus (www.humanrights.ca; spiritpanels.humanrights.ca).
If your spirit needs renewal, visit Saskatchewan’s Northern Plains People. Body/mind/spirit experiences unfold at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park as they celebrate their 25th Anniversary with new construction, landscaping upgrades and other surprises. Witness a buffalo hunt, explore medicine wheel circles, or learn about the relationship locals maintain with healing plants, culinary wisdom and the cycles of animals. Gather family and friends and make plans to experience an overnight at the traditional Tipi Village (minimum 15 people) from May to October. Learn the tipi raising techniques, take a medicine walk, and sit together at the fireplace while cooking bannock (unleaven bread) and learning about traditional ways and the history of the prairies (www.wanuskewin.com).
For great hospitality in Ontario make the trip to Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world. Manitoulin Island is the site of the Wiikwemkoong Annual Cultural Festival. Eastern North America’s longest running powwow occurs annually during the Civic Holiday long weekend from August 4 to 6 on Canada’s only officially recognized “unceded territory.” Visitors witness traditional and contemporary singing, dancing and drumming of the Peoples of Turtle Island (North America). Enjoy authentic cuisine and crafts while exploring the powwow grounds, and visit the Cultural Pavilion where workshops, presentations and activities abound. You may also purchase the Anishinaabemowin Language App from the Google Play Store, featuring 32 categories in Three Fires Confederacy languages of Odawa, Ojibwe and Pottawatami.
The most popular tour, the Unceded Journey, is an educational experience, as guides share stories about the 1836 and 1862 Manitoulin Island treaties, intrigue you with the local lore of Zhibzhii—the underwater spirit, and take you back in time to the now infamous “Manitoulin Incident.” Wikwemikong Tourism hosts several other cultural tour packages that showcase the lifestyles and traditions of the Three Fires Peoples that share the rich history, Indigenous plant knowledge, traditional teachings and the connection to land and water. Satisfy your need for culture and outdoor adventure in one of the largest Indigenous territories in Canada (www. wikwemikong.ca).
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 Indigenous 4-star boutique hotel called Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations, gracefully built along the banks of the Akiawenrahk (St.Charles River), and now featuring an indoor pool, fitness centre and dining terrace overlooking the riverside.
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. A must-see is the new Wendat Creation Myth installation at the west entrance to Old Wendake, designed and built to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Not to miss is the jewellery workshop. Ask about their “Experience” packages and educational offerings for children (www.tourismewendake.ca).
Newfoundland and Labrador outdoor adventurers trumpet the virtues of their majestic Torngat Mountains Inuit-led Base Camp & Research Station experience, immersing participants in this dreamy geography and stunning wildlife viewing. The tallest mountains in Canada east of the Rockies spy over a mythical mix of fjords, rivers, flood plains and coastal wilderness. Torngat Mountains Base Camp treks—both Wolf and Caribou Adventures—are classic outdoor explorations and rival any wild exploit worldwide (www.thetorngats.com).
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.
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 15 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).
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 Peoples 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/kejimkujik).
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 (northern lights) in the comfort of your ship. If Indigenous ownership and supporting sustainability in your travels is important to you, book with Tundra
North Tours based in Inuvik, Northwest Territories. They feature a wide array of explorations from river tours, to reindeer excursions, introductory 3-day visits, and the 7-day Ultimate Arctic Adventure
Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre beckons visitors from June 29 to July 5 for their popular annual Adäka Cultural Festival— Adäka means “coming into the light” (www. kwanlindunculturalcentre.com). Whitehorse’s waterfront is the Yukon site for this colourful event mixing traditional and contemporary musical performers and creative artists from local First Nations tribes, as well as guest entertainers from Alaska, Greenland, B.C. and Northwest Territories. The mélange of entertainment, together with unique workshops and handmade crafts, are imbued with the infectious Yukon spirit and light guarantees guests memorable fun (www. travelyukon.com).