Where to find Canada’s immersive aboriginal experiences
The month of June heralds indigenous celebrations across Canada, with communities of every size paying homage to National Aboriginal Day on June 21st, the summer solstice.
Increasing numbers of Aussies are seeking immersive experiences of Canada’s diverse aboriginal culture – and they’re not hard to find. The country’s rich indigenous history is preserved in attractions, events, and adventures, found in every province, from coast to coast.
Read on for eight of the best:
- Kejimkujik National Park in Nova Scotia is teeming with relics of the Mi’kmaq People. Stone carvings known as petroglyphs can be found throughout the park, and contain images which portray hunting, fishing, and other snapshots of traditional Mi’kmaq life. Hire a canoe and paddle the same waterways used by local Aboriginal peoples for generations. A warning: the park takes its name from Kejimkujik Lake, which apparently means “tired muscles” in Mi’kmaq, referencing just how challenging it can be to canoe the lake.
- For close to 6000 years, countless nomadic tribes used Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump to hunt buffalo, making it one of the oldest and best-preserved communal buffalo hunting sites in North America. Visiting the award-winning interpretive centre is a highlight of any trip to the windswept Alberta landscape. Move through the timeline of the legendary buffalo jump to see how the First Nations learned to adapt the landscape to assist in the hunt. Listen to First Nations guides recount life on the plains and demonstrate how the tribes worked together to use every part of the animal. During the summer months, watch and join in as First Nations dancers and drummers perform, or take a hike to the drive lanes to see how the bison were outwitted.
- Discover the Huron Traditional Site, located in Wendake, on the Huron-Wendat Reservation just 15 minutes from Quebec City. This authentic recreation of a Huron village allows you to connect with the province’s Aboriginal history. Take a guided tour, participate in unique games, join in a craft workshop, or go on a shaman’s quest. End your visit with a traditional meal in the NEK8ARRE restaurant.
For more than a quarter of a century, the Great Northern Arts Festival in the Northwest Territories has showcased the works of 120 Northern painters, sculptors, musicians, and First Nations artists from across the country. Watch a Gwich’in woman create handmade Aboriginal dolls, see a polar bear emerge from a soapstone in the hands of a native carver, and dance to Inuit hip-hop, as you revel under the midnight sun.
- Tombstone Territorial Park might sound intimidating, but this Yukon destination is rich in natural wonders and First Nations culture. Located just 280 kilometres from the Arctic Circle, Tombstone is home to the Tr’ondëk Hwëch, a First Nation whose history in the area can be traced back thousands of years. Everything from hunting blinds to stone tools and, yes, cemeteries, can be found at over 70 protected First Nations ecological and archeological sites within the park.
- In the Hazelton community of Northern British Columbia lies the ‘Ksan Historical Village and Museum, a re-created Gitxsan village. Seven longhouses, the first of which was built in 1959, replicate a district that stood on the same riverside site for hundreds, or possibly thousands, of years. Look up at totem poles and visit the smoke house and food cache.
- From the moment the drummers strike up a pounding rhythm, and the women in elaborate shawls spread their butterfly capes, you’ll know Winnipeg’s Manito Ahbee Festival is a special event. At a traditional Aboriginal gathering place, watch as pow wow performers in feathered headdresses share the spotlight with Aboriginal hip hop musicians. Feel your whole body move as Cree, Ojibwa, and Dakota Sioux dancers spin and sing. And when the “intertribal dance” is called out, that’s your cue to join in.
- The Great Spirit Circle Trail shows visitors the lives of the Anishinaabe people of Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater lake island in the world. From waterfalls to breathtaking views, the natural beauty of the island is only surpassed by the culture and tradition that it houses. Seven First Nations reserves can be found on Manitoulin, and the rich Aboriginal history is extremely important to all of its residents. The Great Spirit Circle Trail puts you in the hands of a local guide, who will walk you through the history of the island, its nature, and its peoples. Hear their stories, share in their food, and even take part in a traditional ceremony.
Air Canada offers direct flights to Vancouver from Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, with connecting flights to the eastern provinces and northern territories. Direct flights from Sydney to Vancouver are also available on Qantas.
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