Indigenous Travel: Delve Into The Cultural Side Of Canada

Indigenous dancing, by Ontario’s Ottawa River

​Canada offers much more than natural beauty, rural landscapes, maple forests, and the Niagara Falls. Delve into the Indigenous side of this welcoming nation and you will find a rich tapestry of histories, beliefs, folklore and legends. See the Great White North from a new perspective, and you will leave all the richer for hearing their stories.

Manitoulin Island, Ontario

Manitoulin Island is the largest freshwater island lake on the planet. A significant cultural location, it is also home to Canada’s first European settlement, the town Manitowaning, and the historic Anishinaabe (composed of the Odawa, Ojibwe, and Pottawatomi peoples) settlement, the group trading and settling in this place for thousands of years.

In total, there are six reserves on the island (which is just 100 miles long and 50 miles wide), and one, the Wikwemikong, is still Canada’s only unceded reserve. Its many interesting sites include the, “World’s Largest Peace Pipe, Dream Catcher and Drum,”  and the numerous hiking and cycling trails allow you to combine your sense of adventure with a truly immersive cultural experience.

Hike with Indigenous guides on Ontario’s Manitoulin Island

Manitoulin’s Cup and Saucer Trail (part of the Niagara Escarpment, a 450 million-year-old rock formation) is a signature experience and one of the best hikes in Ontario. Quite a challenge, the pathways take you up rocky staircases and onto cliffside trails. The views are worth the effort, as once you arrive at the top, you are treated to a panoramic display of the millions of trees that cover the island. The highest point on the island, the route boasts 230-foot-high cliffs stretching for over a mile in length.

At the end of the climb, you will be given the opportunity to take part in a tobacco ceremony to give thanks “Meegwich” to the earth by sprinkling raw tobacco on a rock. Whichever trail you take, expect to find spectacular scenery away from the crowds, clear pristine shores untouched by man, and an incredible sense of serenity.

Jasper National Park, Alberta

The First Nations Warrior Women are matriarchs of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation and guardians of their culture. An opportunity to embrace the heartbeat of Mother Earth and explore their deep-rooted connection to the land, visit Jasper National Park (the largest national park in the Canadian Rockies), its 2.7 million acres filled with mountain peaks, icy glaciers and shimmering blue lakes.

​Warrior Women are matriarchs of the Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation (c) Tourism Jasper

Part powerful drumming, part singing (written in both English and their native tongue) and part storytelling, the experience aims to connect Indigenous stories of the land with haunting melodies of the past to give you a deeper understanding of First Nations’ spirituality.

You will also learn songs and beautiful phrases in Cree, the cross cultural adventure giving you a unique insight into what it means to be part of this band. The Warrior Women’s fireside chats play an integral part in upholding the beauty and history of this enchanting place, with the BBQ dinner held by Alberta’s Trefoil Lake, the location blessed with spectacular views of Pyramid Mountain.

​Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia

Many people come to Nova Scotia to sample its delicious maritime fare, in fact, the province is home to two seafood-centric culinary trails: the Lobster Trail and the Chowder Trail. And, with its melting pot of cultural influences, including Acadian, Gaelic, African Nova Scotian and First Nations people, you can also expect to find many culinary threads underpinning the food and wine in Canada’s Ocean Playground.

A province that is rapidly becoming known for its sparkling wine, the Benjamin Bridge Winery in the Annapolis Valley is an example of how Nova Scotia is diversifying its menu, one of its signature wines based on a collaboration with the Glooscap Nation.

Launch of ​Glooscap First Nation ✗ Benjamin Bridge Rosé, in Nova Scotia (c) Benjamin Bridge Winery

The ​​Glooscap First Nation ✗ Benjamin Bridge Rosé is described as a wine of peace and friendship, the winery aiming to reveal the identity of the Gaspereau Valley (which lies in the cradle of the larger Annapolis Valley) to the World through its collection. In order to honour the fact that the winery is set on Mik’maq land the winery produced a wine with First Nation input for National Indigenous Day, with half of the profits going back into the First Nation’s community.

The winery also co-hosts its annual Beyond Terroir event with the Glooscap Nation every September. The occasion features food stations hosted by Mi’kmaq knowledge holders, guided tours through the vineyard and the opportunity to sample food and drink pairings prepared with ingredients from the vineyard’s garden and local producers.

Spirit Bear Lodge, British Columbia

If you follow the ancient legend of the spirit bear (Kermode bear), the Wee’get (the “raven” and creator) turned every 10th black bear white to remind people of the Ice Age and how we should be thankful for the lush, bountiful world we live in today.

Their pale fur is actually inherited from a rare recessive gene, but they are still sacred to the Indigenous people who live in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest, this the largest piece of intact temperate rainforest in the world.

Spirit Bear cub spotted in British Columbia’s Great Bear Rainforest

Eagles, wolves, cougars, grizzly bears, and black bears also make their home here, the majestic forested mountains giving way to richly diverse river valleys and estuaries teaming with sea life; but the Spirit Bear is incredibly rare, with current population estimates ranging from just 50 to around 150. Owned and operated by the Kitasoo/Xai’xais people, Klemtu’s Spirit Bear Lodge is located in the heart of the rainforest, and a holiday here offers unparalleled access to some of the best grizzly and Spirit Bear viewing in the region.

The First Nation’s livelihood, health, and culture are intertwined with the land, water, fish, and wildlife, and the Spirit Bears remain part of the traditional song, dance, and storytelling of the Indigenous community. They are even thought to have supernatural powers. A truly immersive experience, First Nation’s philosophy is integrated into each moment of your stay, through spending time with local guides on wildlife hikes, visiting cultural sites, and learning their history.

Inuvik, Northwest Territories

Located in the land of the midnight sun, the Northwest Territories experience 24 hours of daylight during their 56 days of summer, so what better time to celebrate.

The ​Great Northern Arts Festival takes place every July in the Northwest Territories

Already featured in National Geographic, Inuvik’s Great Northern Arts Festival has been running for over 30 years, the 10-day event which takes place every July, showcasing the works of painters, sculptors, musicians and Indigenous artists from across Canada.

Carving, textiles, sewing, jewelry, performing arts, arctic fashion and northern culture is on full display during the event, and the opportunity to work alongside these creatives in hands-on workshops makes this a unique experience.

Calgary Stampede, Alberta

There are Powwow celebrations across Canada, but the Calgary Stampede is significant in terms of its history.  Through the late 1800s and into the early 1900s, Powwows and other Indigenous celebrations and ceremonies were banned across Canada. One notable exception, being the Calgary Stampede.

The Calgary Stampede is known as the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” (c) Peter Ellegard

Established in 1912, Guy Weadick and his business partners successfully lobbied the federal government to allow Treaty 7 First Nations to be part of the proceedings, and the annual event is now regarded as “the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.”

First Nations Peoples continue to grace this world-renowned Albertan festival, where you will find tipis, Indigenous handicrafts, and plenty of energetic dancing, and drumming.

For more information on the holidays we offer at Frontier Canada, and to book, call us on 020 8776 8709 or email us at ATOL PROTECTED No 5405 ABTA W3207.