Travel Guide to Canada
INDIGENOUS TOURISM: A BOUNTY FOR ALL CANADIANS
It may surprise you to know that Canada boasts some 1,875 Indigenous businesses and the demand is growing. Experts believe there is a noticeable choice deflection by U.S. travellers away from distant international trips, and Canada is obviously benefitting from this change. It is also giving rise to a healthier curiosity about Canadian culture and geography, with Indigenous tourism primed and ready.
Ancestral interests nationwide continue to establish a dynamic menu of unique activities for even the most experienced travellers. Indigenous 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 customary 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 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, or an easy flight from Vancouver’s South Terminal, which is included in packages. The Great Bear Rainforest, the largest intact coastal temperate rainforest on the planet, is protected from the Pacific Ocean tumult; and, is where travellers often journey 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 long-established territory and co-managed by the Kitasoo Nation and the Province of British Columbia (www.spiritbear.com).
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. Don’t miss the Mikinak-Keya Spirit tour, a distinct cultural experience which explores the Anishinaabe, Cree and Dakota seven sacred teachings (www.humanrights.ca).
If your spirit needs renewal, visit Saskatchewan’s Northern Plains People.
Body/mind/spirit experiences unfold at the Wanuskewin Heritage Park as its expansion evolves with new construction, landscaping upgrades and other surprises. A new bison herd will be added to the outdoor experiences, and other elements will weave together prior to their grand reveal in 2020. 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 (unleavened bread). Not to be missed is the Han Wi Moon Dinner & Storytelling Excursion, offered once each month from May to September. Book early (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, one of eastern North America’s longest running powwows. Enjoy time-honoured cuisine and crafts while exploring the powwow grounds.
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” (www.wiikwemkoong.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 historical 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. Must-sees are the Wendat Creation Myth installation at the west entrance to Old Wendake, and their annual Wendake International Pow Wow on-site from June 28-30. Ask about their “Experience” packages and educational offerings for children (www.tourismewendake.ca).
The new Innu wild island site, on Apinipehekat Island along Québec’s idyllic Lower North Shore, offers tourists complete cultural and natural immersion throughout the year with residents of Unamen Shipu, an Indigenous community steeped in ancestral traditions (winipeukut.ca/?lang=en).
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 that rival any wild exploit worldwide (www.thetorngats.com). Mi’kmaq powwows on Prince Edward Island’s Lennox Island sparkle 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 in mid-June at the Old Reserve Gound in Fredericton, to the Pabineau First Nation Powwow at the new Flying Eagle Memorial Powwow Grounds during mid-July, or the Eel Ground First Nation Powwow around the same time (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 narwhal 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 28 to July 4 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 Yukon First Nations, as well as Indigenous guests from around the world. 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).
Increase the excitement in Puvirnituq, an isolated community in Northern Québec. Here you can enjoy a dog sledding adventure across the sea ice and get a hands-on course with an Inuk master igloo-builder, and even sleep under the northern lights in the igloo that you built (www.inuitadventures.com).