Third in a series: Aboriginal tourism in Northern Ontario
Part three of our three part series on Aboriginal Tourism in Canada, showcases Loren Christie experiencing the Great Spirit Circle Trail.
Eight First Nation communities, all part of the larger Anishnaabe nation, inhabit Manitoulin Island and the Sagamok region, which extends onto the mainland to the north. Together they make up the Great Spirit Circle Trail, which is not really a trail but rather a collection of attractions and activities offered to visitors eager to learn about the culture of our First Nations people.
My Great Spirit experience started with a traditional smudging ceremony (which we did not film out of respect for the ceremony) to bless our day by local Ojibwe guide, Steven Antoine. According to Steven, it's important to have a local guide involved so you are truly getting an authentic experience by people who live what they teach.
On a canoe trip on Lake Mindemoya he shared with me the lore of the land, which included the creation of the "grandmother" island in the middle of the lake. After our time on the water, we went on a medicine walk where I learned the healing properties of various plants as well as some practical tips; cedar tea is delicious and white birch bark will remove sticky sap from your skin. My favourite experience was Steven teaching me how to make my own drum out of deer hide. The drum, I learned, is the one common element among all First Nations people across Canada representing the heartbeat of Mother Earth.
Located in Northern Ontario, Manitoulin is a two-hour drive from Sudbury or a seven-hour journey from Toronto including a ride aboard the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun ferry. There are also two airports on the island should you want to fly in.
The Great Spirit Circle Trail is one of approximately 1,500 aboriginal businesses that came together last year to form the Aboriginal Tourism Association of Canada. I encourage everyone to make an element of aboriginal tourism part of their next vacation. For real change to occur we need break down the negative stereotypes that exist by growing our collective understanding of this fascinating culture.