Story Ideas

Great Spirit Circle Trail – Canadian Signature Experiences

Experience the past and enjoy contemporary First Nations’ culture on Manitoulin Island in Ontario

13 February 2013

Whether it’s visiting local galleries and museums, taking an overnight horseback riding tour with an overnight in a tipi, or taking a drumming workshop, Great Spirit Circle Trail offers authentic First Nations cultural experiences with expert guides and through hands-on workshops and activities.

Based in Ontario’s Manitoulin Island – the largest freshwater lake island in the world – the name means “Spirit Island” in Anishinaabemowin, the Ojibwe language. So it’s fitting that Great Spirit Circle Trail, an organization that represents eight local First Nations communities, is reaching out to explain First Nations’ culture and spirituality here.

“Voice of the Drum” workshops tell the story of drumming and its significance, as well as how to make one. Always constructed from natural hides such as the white-tailed deer, drums are not viewed as mere “tangible objects.” Instead, they are respected, living beings. Hence, the workshop leaders teach how ownership brings responsibilities, such as the proper care of the drum.

Consider the “Experience the History, Enjoy the Culture” walking tour, which includes art galleries and museums. For example, Lillian’s Quill Box Museum houses more than 400 birch bark baskets and porcupine quill boxes, all made by elders in the area. Don’t miss this museum’s gift shop, where moccasins, crafting supplies, jewelry and quill-work boxes are for sale.

Ready for action? Take the “Medicine Walk”, where expert guides identify native plants such as sage and mint, used for traditional healing. Or paddle nearby islands during the “Bay of the Beaver Canoe Tour.” Try the “Horse and Tipi Overnight Adventure”, where participants not only ride but swim with a horse. The five-hour ride ascends a mountainside, affording splendid views of the rugged rocks and dramatic white pines framing Lake Huron, the second largest of Canada’s Great Lakes. In mid-afternoon it’s time to dismount, learn how to erect a tipi, have a First Nations’ inspired meal and listen to the guide’s storytelling around a campfire before falling asleep inside the tipi.

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