There are several opportunities to see firsthand the people and traditions that tell their stories and appreciate the richness of Indigenous culture and heritage of Ontario. With Indigenous communities all across the province, you can find one near you or explore another area of Ontario.
**Some places mentioned might be closed due to COVID-19. Please verify before travelling.**
This sacred site sits within Lake Superior Provincial Park. Centuries ago, Ojibway spiritual leaders painted animals and canoes in red ochre and they have remained on the rockface to this day. To find the pictographs and view them face on, hike down a trail that is marked to take you to the Group of Seven lookout, then take a right instead of a left then walk down a steep staircase cut into the rock.
Address: 96 Broadway Avenue, Wawa
Indigenous Walks Art Tour – Ottawa
To get a sense of how much Indigenous people have contributed to society, join Jamie Morse of Indigenous Walks for a tour of national monuments in the nation’s capital. It begins at the Monument of Human Rights on Elgin Street and highlights Indigenous representation in historical developments, including the Monument to Aboriginal Warriors.
Wikwemikong – Manitoulin Island
Wiikwemkoong on Manitoulin Island is Canada’s only officially recognized Unceded Indigenous Reserve.
Located on Odawa Mnis (Manitoulin Island)—the ancestral home of the Anishnaabek people of the Three Fires Confederacy (Ojibwe, Odawa, Pottawatomi), Wikwemikong offers an experience unlike any other in Canada. You can learn all about the history of Manitoulin Island and of Wiikwemkoong on The Unceded Journey Tour hosted by Wiikwemkoong Tourism. The tour is hosted by the Anishnaabek people, and from your guide, you’ll learn all about the history of the island, as well as some of the rich history of the Anishnaabek people, food, and local lore.
Point Grondine Park, northeast of Manitoulin Island
This new park boasts 18,000 unspoiled acres of lakes, woods and trails, which is all run by the Anishinaabek people of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory. Canoe or kayak on the water or hike and camp back country with the advice of the people who know this land better than anyone. In future seasons, it will add glamping and guided experiences so make plans to return.
Address: Hwy. 637, Killarney
Huronia Museum, Midland
This a recreated Huron/Ouendat Indigenous village invites you back to the 1500s to explore its longhouse, lookout tower and thousands of historic artefacts to enlighten you via photos and archaeology. Take a guided tour to learn about the sweat lodge, cornfield, shaman’s lodge and traditional masks.
Address: 549 Little Lake Park, Midland
Ojibwe Cultural Foundation – M’Chigeeng, Manitoulin Island
Learn about the spiritual traditions, language and creativity of the Anishinaabe people of Manitoulin Island (Mnidoo Mnising). The onsite museum features early scrolls of Anishinaabe knowledge, beautiful beadwork, traditional sweetgrass baskets, and carvings, in addition to a deep look into the devastating legacy of the Residential School System.
Address: 15 Hwy 551, M’Chigeeng
Chiefswood National Historic Site, Six Nations
The largest Indigenous community in Ontario is the birthplace of famous Mohawk English poet Pauline where you will be welcomed to see the desk where she wrote her stirring words when you tour her home. You can take guided tours or show yourself around. For more fun, take a rafting trip down the Grand River or join cultural programs, such as Whisper to the Moon, Where Cultures Meet, On the Water, and A Day of Play to find out more about the six member nations of the Haudenosaunee people: Onondaga, Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Seneca and Tuscarora.
Address: 1037 Brant County Hwy 54, Ohsweken
Mohawk Chapel, Brantford
Come and marvel at the stunning stained-glass windows and architecture within the last surviving structure of the original Mohawk Village Settlement of 1784. As the oldest surviving church in Ontario, it is one of three royal chapels in Ontario, making it a National Historic Site. Afterward, visit the 200-year-old graveyard where Joseph Brant and his son John Brant and the Johnson family from Chiefswood National Historic Site lie.
Address: 301 Mohawk Street, Brantford
Sainte-Marie Among the Hurons, Midland
This time, you can visit the 1600s at this National Historic Site. While this replicates the site of a historic French Jesuit mission, it tells you far more about the Iroquoian Huron-Wendat First Nation at the time. Sitting right on the shore of Georgian Bay, this land was farmed by the original inhabitants. Here, you can learn about the interaction between Indigenous and European cultures and how it affected both sides.
Address: 16164, Highway 12 East, Midland
Great Spirit Circle Trail, Manitoulin Island
Take an eco-adventure trip and learn about First Nations culture and traditions thanks to educational interpretive tours and Aboriginal experiences. Set up a teepee, harvest herbs and plants for traditional medicine, hike the hills of your guides’ ancestors as you listen to stories and legends. Paddle in a canoe in the waters of the largest freshwater island in the world, home of Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi peoples.
Address: Intersection of Highways 540 and 551, M’Chigeeng
Woodland Cultural Centre
Drop into two interactive museums and two art galleries to gain new insights into the history, art, language and culture of the Haudenosaunee people of the Eastern Woodlands. Within its five acres of grounds, it also hosts an Indigenous library, archives and Language Resource Centre, plus the Mohawk Institute Indian Residential School historic site.
Address: 184 Mohawk St., Brantford
Bon Echo Provincial Park’s Painted Rock
Mazinaw Rock looms over Mazinaw Lake, 100 metres above the water, giving an impressive view within Bon Echo Provincial Park. Not only does it produce a great echo – prompting the name of the park – it also has more than 260 Indigenous pictograms that speak to the history of the so-called “painted rock.” You can find it via one of the many hiking trails in the park, ranging in length from one to 17 kilometres, or take a 45-minute boat tour with an interpreter. Daily fees range from $10 to $18.50. The boat tour (cancelled during COVID-19) cost an additional $15 plus tax.
Address: 16151 ON-41, Cloyne
Moose Cree First Nation/Cree Village Eco Lodge
Moose Cree First Nations and Cree Village Eco Lodge offers boat tours that immerse you in their culture as you are surrounded by their native waters. You can choose from a range of activities from storytelling, traditional cuisine, fishing, bird watching or just touring the islands under the dazzling northern lights.
Address: 22 Jonathon Cheechoo Dr., Moose Factory
Petroglyphs Provincial Park
See the largest known concentration of Indigenous rock carvings in Canada at the Teaching Rocks in this camping area. You can see images of turtles, snakes and birds, as you learn about the traditions of the Ojibway (Nishnaabe) and their medicine wheel. Dogs and cameras are not permitted at the petroglyphs site. Save your photography for vibrant McGinnis Lake, a rare blue-green lake where layers of water that don’t intermix. Day passes range from $10 to $18.60 and camping fees cost extra.
Address: 2249 Northeys Bay Rd, Woodview (north of Peterborough)
Savannah at Alderville First Nation
This Black Oak Savannah in the rolling hills near Rice Lake was preserved once Alderville elder Rick Beaver noticed rare plants species blooming after decades of grass-clearing burning and development in the area. Now a natural history site, you can take a one-hour tour for $20 or book a half day as an individual or a group of 20 for $15 or $300, respectively. The site is now the largest intact tract of native grassland habitat left within Central and Eastern Ontario, preserving native plants and seeds.
Address: 11696 Second Line, Roseneath (north of Cobourg)
Cape Croker Park
The Chippewas of Nawash Unceded First Nation welcome you to Georgian Bay for Anishnaabe Cultural Experience Programs. You can camp on the grounds as you treat yourself to guided hikes, storytelling, craft making, and wilderness skills programs to share Anishnaabe history and traditional knowledge.
Address: 112 Park Road, Neyaashiinigmiing
Ku’Kum Kitchens, Toronto
Foodies in Toronto can connect with chef Joseph Shawana to learn from his experiences foraging for whole ingredients and respecting every element he adds to his meals. He prepares trout, elk, Bannock and mushrooms with creativity as he takes traditional dishes and bring them into the modern era.
Address:581 Mount Pleasant Road, Toronto
Great Lakes Cultural Camps
Dive right into Anishinaabe cultural experiences on the land and water that embrace the joy of being active in the outdoors. This mobile unit can go almost anywhere to share lessons from Anishinaabe culture and how it can enhance quality of life.
Address: 135 Amber Street, Sault Ste Marie
Whetung Ojibwa Centre, Curve Lake (north of Peterborough)
See some of the best artwork Ontario artists are creating, from painting to jewelry, sculpture, leather work, beading, dream catchers and more. Whetungs also operate a museum and have totem poles in their expansive building. Arrive by road or by boat.
Address:875 Mississauga St, Curve Lake
Pow wows are an integral part of First Nations culture as part celebration, part reunion with respectful visitors welcome. You’ll get a full taste of Indigenous life by watching the grand entry, getting smudged, buying crafts and food, admiring the colourful regalia, and tapping your toes along with the dances and drums. Ask about protocols about taking photos before pointing your camera since some ceremonies are off-limits. Some events are not happening this year (2021) but check the websites of local Indigenous communities near you to plan your visit.
Time-limited for 2021
National Arts Centre’s Indigenous Arts content – Ottawa
The National Arts Centre in Ottawa is hosting two shows in September as part of its Indigenous programming. Mononk Jules combines video projection, puppets and other objects to tell the story of his great-uncle Julies Sioui, a great hero of the 20th century, on Sept. 14 and 15. From Sept. 17 to 22, Okinum (Dam) immerses the audience into the recurring dreams of the performer as she uses traditional medicines and connects to her ancestry. This is a scaled-down version of the Centre’s annual Moshkamo Indigenous Arts Festival.
The Rez Sisters at Stratford Festival
Tomson Highway’s sassy and resilient female characters come alive in this unforgettable drama about a group of women’s dreams, from a musical career to a cure for care and recovery from rape and loss. Together, they focus on building the world biggest bingo and hilarity ensues. Five dollars from extra ticket goes to the Native Women’s Association of Canada in support of justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.
Science North’s Indigenous Ingenuity exhibit, Sudbury
Earn a series of 26 badges as you use a harpoon, shoot arrows and model mukluks at this interactive exhibit that focuses on Indigenous innovation and traditions. Divided into Arctic, mountain, water and plains regions, tap into the power of oral history during a tour of the 7,000-square-foot display while wearing a RFID bracelet to launches stories. Ride a dogsled via virtual reality or build an igloo. After its stint in Sudbury the show moves on to Thunder Bay.