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Share the past and celebrate the present with Manitoba’s First Nations people

Published: 09/16/2012

Experience Manitoba's storied and vibrant indigenous culture at attractions throughout the province. The original people of the prairies proudly share their history and traditions with travellers keen for a taste of aboriginal life.

The history of European settlement in Manitoba stretches back centuries.

Aboriginal life in the province stretches backs a millennia.

Indeed, the province was named  in honour of the legend of Manitou, the Great Spirit who blew a strong wind and sent waves crashing at the Lake Manitoba Narrows. The word for Great Spirit in Ojibway is ‘Manitobau,' thereby cementing the province's name and ties to its aboriginal roots.

Today, Manitoba's indigenous culture, history, spiritual life and traditions are kept alive and cherished in all corners of the province.

Travellers itching for a taste of aboriginal life, either past and present, can walk it, talk it, and if you're hungry, even eat it.

On day trips to sacred sites, buffalo jumps, pictographs, petroforms and modern-day pow wows, Manitoba's aboriginal way of life, now and then, springs to life.

Keep your ears tuned too. When you hear a local Aboriginal bid you "Meegwetch," know that with a single word, you are welcomed, thanked for your presence and urged to come back again soon.

Learn about and live aboriginal life at some of Manitoba's best attractions and events. Here are a few highlights: 

Manito Ahbee: Festival for All Nations, October 31-November 4, 2012
Concerts and ceremonies, parties and performances, and dances and drumming illuminate aboriginal culture and celebrate native pride during Canada's largest annual powwow, Manito Ahbee. Thousands of people from across the province, Canada and the States make trails to this annual First Nations fête. This award-winning, five-day festival culminates in the Aboriginal Peoples Choice Music Awards, a star-studded affair that includes everything from hip hop to hoop dancing. A two-day powwow also pits top aboriginal dancers, all wearing show-stopping costumes and headpieces adorned with beads and feathers in every hue, in a massive dance competition all set to a rhythmic and mesmerizing soundtrack of live drumming and singing. Non-aboriginals are eagerly invited to join the festivities. For more information visit www.manitoahbee.com.


Keeping traditional dance alive is serious business at Manito Ahbee, an annual festival celebrating Aboriginal art, history and culture. Photo courtesy Manito Ahbee.

The Aboriginal Centre of Winnipeg: Once the home of the Canadian Pacific Railway Station, this grand building on Higgins Street in Winnipeg's North Main neighbourhood, has been transformed into into a gathering place and resource centre for  the local Aboriginal community. It is also open to the general public and events are held year round at the centre. The rotunda has been restored to its former glory and is also home to the Aboriginal Centre Restaurant, which serves traditional cuisine. For more information go to abcentre.org or call 204-989-6605.

Circle of Life Thunderbird House: Delve into aboriginal values, culture and spirituality inside this stylized bricks and mortar tipi on Winnipeg's Main Street. This imposing and dramatic building is a meeting place for spiritual fulfillment and socializing. Traditional sweats can be arranged for groups. Solo travelers may also join a community sweat. For more information visit thunderbirdhouse.com or call 204-940-4240.

For history buffs, check out these storied and sacred aboriginal sites dating back thousands of years:

Christ Church: Founded in 1840 in The Pas, this Anglican church was headed by Henry Budd, the first ordained Aboriginal minister in the Anglican church. The Ten Commandments are written on a wall in Cree in the church. Meanwhile, some of the furnishings were made by ships' carpenters from the 1847 expedition in search of Sir John Franklin.

Molson Lake Rock Paintings: Located north of  Norway House in northern Manitoba, mysterious pictographs were discovered painted on rock faces along Paimusk Creek.

The Stott Site: In the Assiniboine Valley near Brandon, archeologists unearthed bison bones, kill and process tools and artifacts dating back to 1,000 A.D. The area was home to Assiniboine villagers who also used the steep valley walls as buffalo jumps. The site is located outside Brandon at the Grand Valley Provincial Park.

Bannock Point Petroforms: Inside Whiteshell Provincial Park, ancient petroforms-boulder mosaics of turtles, snakes, birds and humans-tell the story of Aboriginal life through the ages. These ground-level artworks were laid out centuries ago by the first peoples and represented their spiritual connection to the land, the earth and the animals.

Thunderbird Nest: This ancient sight near The Narrows of Lake Manitoba was constructed by the Anishinabe to attract this guardian spirit. Five hand-painted signs at the site describe the legend. The site is still used today by the Ojibway to perform spiritual ceremonies.

Kenosewun Centre: Located in Lockport's Heritage Park, the centre houses tourist information and archaeological exhibits of Aboriginal horticultural practices. The area, just north of Winnipeg, was home to Manitoba's first farmers, who cultivated the land and fished in the nearby St. Andrews rapids.

For a comprehensive list of the province's aboriginal attractions click here

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