Working in the tourism industry, especially in the Indigenous tourism industry, has many advantages; you get to live and experience amazing products with awesome people, who you’ll learn more than a few teachings from. It really is so rewarding to share moments and learn the traditional ways of different communities and relate to what your people have been doing for centuries.
This summer, I’ve been very fortunate to spend time in Ontario visiting Manitoulin Island. Manitoulin Island is the home of 6 Anishinaabe First Nations (M’Chigeeng, Sheguiandah, Sheshegwaning, Aundeck Omni Kaning, Wiikwemkoong and Zhiibaahaasing). 40% of the population on the island comes from one of these 6 communities, making the island a very vibrant cultural destination.
The first area I visited is located on the Eastern part of the island, the Unceded territory of Wikwemikong. The team at Wikwemikong Tourism got me visiting a bunch of amazing places and I got to try some of their home packages.
We started our visit to the band council owned and controlled Rainbow Ridge Golf Course, the only 18 hole championship course on the island. Having played golf for many years, I can assure you that the course offers a pretty decent challenge. The club house is well managed and offers full food service from breakfast to dinner.
26 B Clover Valley Rd.
Afterwards we went to the Debajehmujig Creation Centre in Manitowaning, the only professional theater located on reserve land in Canada, where multi-disciplinary creations come to life. Visitors have the opportunity to see a variety of art collections in the main pavilion, and since they also grow their own veggies, you can partake in outdoor cooking lessons while learning Anishnabeg words.
43 Queen St
I also visited an amazing local artist, James Mishibinijima, one of the greatest Indigenous artist I’ve met. His private art gallery is open to the public and is just stunning. He showed me his work and explained the meaning behind the pieces, some of which took over 13 months to complete. If you’re a collector give James a call, the colours on his paintings are just phenomenal!
426 Lakeshore Rd
Later in the day, we got to visit the biggest log building complex in the world, the impressive new conference centre at Killarney Mountain Lodge. Although the lodge is under private non-Indigenous ownership many rooms are dedicated to local artists and artisans. Nearby is Wikwemikong owned and controlled Point Grondine Park, where many canoeing activities are available as well as workshops where you can learn about local medicinal plants and drum making.
While in Wiky, you can’t miss the opportunity to do some salmon fishing with Wass Tours! After 5 minutes of fishing we had a fish on our line! The nicest one caught in 2 hours, a nice 13 pounder, those filets were just amazing. You’ll be impressed by the knowledge that the guides have on the water.
115 Henry St, Wikwemikong, ON
For your stay, I strongly recommend the privately owned Indigenous lodging; Bayside Resort. Their three fully equipped log cabins are well maintained and you’ll have one of the best sunset views!
30, Two O’Clock Road
For any booking or packaging options, you can contact the team at Wikwemikong Tourism. Their staff and guides are amazing and very talented, you’ll have fun guaranteed!
2102 Wikwemikong Way
The second part of my trip was done towards the Northern part of the Island, at the luxurious Manitoulin Island and Conference Centre, which has 58 rooms and is the largest hotel on the Island. The hotel opened in 2013 at a cost of 13 million dollars. The investment was split within the 6 First Nation communities and the Great Spirit Circle Trail. Their conference room can hold up to 400 pax and 90% of the 55 employees are Indigenous. The occupancy rate during the summer months is 95%. Pretty amazing. The rooms are super comfy, and the restaurant serves some authentic Indigenous dishes. It’s another great example of Indigenous success story.
66 Meredith St E
Little Current, ON
We stopped over at the newly formed Indigenous provincial tourism association, Indigenous Tourism Ontario. With their team, we hit the road and head toward Great Spirit Circle Trail. I’ve heard so much about Great Spirit Circle Trail over the years and was really happy to finally get the chance to visit. The site is really peaceful and has Teepees that can accommodate 16 people. Great Spirit Circle Trail offers a wide variety of tour packages and is certainly a great stop for families.
5905 Hwy 540
Just across from there, you have Lillian’s Indian Crafts where you’ll find a wide range of Indigenous crafts, including the largest collection of porcupine Quills. Lillian’s also the owner of West Bay Lodge Campground, where you’ll be able to park your RV and enjoy the island.
5905 Hwy 540
Just a 2-minute walk from both places you’ll find the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation which was created to preserve and revitalize the language, culture, arts, spirituality, and traditions of the Anishinaabe People of the Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island) and surrounding areas. Located in M’Chigeeng First Nation the 11,000 sq.ft. facility is home to a museum, public art gallery and a gift shop. The exhibits include many internationally recognized artists from Manitoulin Island and across northern Ontario. Traditional woodlands art styles, as well as contemporary Indigenous art from established and emerging Anishinaabe artists who bring forth an exciting blend of traditional and modern art forms and mediums that eloquently express the evolving nature of the Anishinaabek artistic vision. Entrance is free and they survive on donations, make sure to be generous!
15, Old Highway 551 Rd
About 10 minutes away, you’ll be able to refresh yourself at the very relaxing Bridal Veil Falls. A nice spot to take a dip and chill with the family.
Talking about relaxing, why don’t you finish your day having a great pint at the Manitoulin Brewing Co, an Indigenous owned venture of 3 guys, 2 Indigenous, proud to be sharing a nice cold one. Their menu is fun and their lemon Weiss is certainly one of the best I’ve had in ages.
43 Manitowaning Rd
Little Current, ON
Lastly, you can also stay over in one of the nice cabins at Endaa-aang Tourism cabin and teepee rentals owned by the Aundeck Omni Kaning First Nation. Six cabins are available and, for the RV lovers, you’ll find a great campground which is also a property of the community.
13 Hill Street, R.R. #1
Little Current, ON
The easiest way to get to Manitoulin Island is to either drive from Toronto, or fly into Sudbury. You’re then two hours away from the island and all those amazing experiences!
If you’re looking for some packaging options, you can search for some experiences here: www.indigenouscanada.travel