When exploring Ontario, it’s easy to get completely lost in the majestic beauty of the lakes, mountains, and forests around you. And it’s even easier to immerse yourself in the quaint towns and busy cities.
But another essential and enjoyable part of travelling through this part of Canada is discovering the deep and impressive indigenous culture Aboriginal Tourism Ontario has to offer. There is so much to learn from the many First Nations tribes to each of their languages, history, and art.
You may not realize just how many places in Ontario are dedicated to preserving and sharing aboriginal culture with visitors. So here’s a shortlist of some of the must-sees to add to your Ontario getaway itinerary.
Table Of Contents
- What is the Purpose of Indigenous Tourism in Ontario?
- Indigenous Experiences and Landmarks
- Explore Indigenous Ontario
What is the Purpose of Indigenous Tourism in Ontario?
When done in a respectful manner, indigenous tourism has the ability to increase awareness and understanding of aboriginal cultures.
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
On September 30, Ontario will be commemorating the very first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Similar to Remembrance Day, September 30 will not be a statutory holiday in Ontario. Converting the day formerly known as Orange Shirt Day into a holiday was one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s recommendations in 2015.
The purpose of this day is to reflect on the atrocities Canada committed against Indigenous peoples.
A prominent example of these atrocities is the remains of the children found in unmarked graves near the city of Kamloops in southern British Columbia and the Marieval Indian Residential School in Saskatchewan. Some of these remains are children as young as three.
Aboriginal Tourism Ontario: Indigenous Experiences
Road Trip Ontario is committed to including content that provides opportunities for Ontarians and Canadians to experience and learn more about our countries indigenous roots and their beautiful culture. Here are some existing posts to get you started:
- Fun Things To Do In Brantford On A Day Trip – Brantford is named after the famous Mohawk leader, Joseph Brant, which borders Six Nations Of The Grand River. It is home to the Mohawk Chapel and Woodland Cultural Centre.
- What to Do in Burlington Ontario (Activities for a Weekend Getaway) – Out in Burlington’s Halton region is Crawford Lake. Not only is Crawford Lake’s trails littered with beautiful Indigenous sculptures you find well-preserved longhouses with indigenous tools and artifacts. You can also take a paid tour of the Longhouses for $10 per person.
Indigenous Experiences and Landmarks
Whether you live in Ontario or you’re just visiting, there is something special about digging into the province’s cultural history and heritage. And luckily, there are plenty of places that allow you to do just that.
Here are some of the best aboriginal experiences you can find in Ontario.
Located in Midland, Ontario, the Huronia Museum is a great place to visit to look at what Huron life was like between AD 1500-1600. This mini-village is outside on the museum property. You can spend some time walking through and viewing the wigwam, longhouse, and many different racks that the Hurons used for drying clothes, fish, and even burials.
The museum was first opened in 1947 and has been expanded and built on since. It boasts magnificent archaeological collections of Ouendat and Ojibway First Nations. As well as several artworks, from native to Victorian-era masterpieces.
Ojibwe Cultural Foundation
The First Nations of Ontario all had their unique traditions, culture, art and languages. And through the years, these cultures have run the risk of being lost in history. But not if the Ojibwe Cultural Foundation has anything to do with it.
This foundation was established in 1974 with the sole purpose of preserving and protecting the cultural heritage of the Anishinaabe people of Mnidoo Mnising (Manitoulin Island). The museum depicts the stunning Anishinaabek artistic skills. At the same time, workshops offer the chance to learn more about these people and their crafting, language, etc. There is also a performance amphitheatre and a gift shop.
Great Spirit Circle Trail
Many First Nation communities call Manitoulin Island their home, and the freshwater island is steeped in history and cultural significance. This, in part, is what makes the Great Spirit Circle Trail through the Manitoulin Mountains such an experience.
Of course, there is also the incredible natural beauty that is found on the island. Spending some time at the Great Spirit Circle allows you to learn about aboriginal life from a knowledgeable guide. You can immerse yourself into sacred cultural experiences, hike the trails, and even spend a night or two in a teepee – talk about fantastic glamping in Ontario.
Petroglyphs Provincial Park
This historical-class provincial park can be found in Woodview, Ontario. And while there isn’t too much to do here, it is home to Canada’s largest known concentration of Indigenous rock carvings. It also boasts the grand blue/green McGinnis Lake and plenty of wildlife.
You can easily spend the day hiking through the park, enjoying the views, and seeking out the rock carvings. These carvings are of many things, including turtles, snakes, birds, and people. The park also has a visitors centre where you can learn more about Ojibway (Nishnaabe) people.
Located in one of Ontario’s largest provincial parks, Agawa Rock is understandably one of the more famous pictographs found in Canada. You’ll find this aboriginal rock painting in Lake Superior Provincial Park, in one of the most-visited indigenous archaeological sites in all of Canada.
The paintings on Agawa Rock are fascinating and have drawn plenty of attention from locals and visitors alike. To see the pictographs up close, you can take the Agawa Rock Indian Pictographs Trail – it gets a bit tricky near the rock, but you can get a guide to help you.
Whetung Ojibwa Centre
With a massive collection of Curve Lake First Nation arts, crafts, and other items, this centre is a great place to visit. You can view traditional arts and crafts here and then purchase something from the store and take a souvenir home.
The centre is a seventh-generation business, and everyone who works there is part of the Curve Lake First Nation. They also claim to love speaking to people and answering any questions. So this is the place to bring any inquiries you’ve had about indigenous Canada.
Found in Bon Echo Provincial Park, on Mazinaw Lake, this rock has preserved pictograph paintings believed to have been done by the Algonquin people. You can reach this rock by visiting the park, which is beautiful as well.
This one sizeable cliff-face rock has over 260 paintings on it, making it the most extensive collection of its kind in Southern Ontario. Many people travel to this spot to see the paintings which show how the Algonquin Indians viewed life hundreds of years ago.
Note: The paintings are marooned on a rock in the middle of the lake, so they can be hard to get to. The red paint has also blended into the rocks over the years, so this can be hard to make out at times.
Explore Indigenous Ontario
Regardless of where you are in Ontario, there is a centre, a park, or a simple landmark to visit to experience the indigenous history of the province. Take a scenic hike or canoe ride to view pictographs or visit a native art gallery. Or take a road trip and see them all.
You can take the chance to speak to First Nations Ontario people or play your part in preserving their culture by visiting one of the centres that do this. These Ontario indigenous tribes have mesmerizing traditions, and they’re all more than willing to share their knowledge with you.