A trip to the north offers more than just wild outdoor adventures and culinary delights. The people and the land are intrinsically linked, and the region provides numerous opportunities to get a glimpse into the Indigenous cultures that call Manitoba’s north home.
Jasyn Lucas Art Studio
Jasyn Lucas Art Studio
Art by Sydni Head
Sculpture by Irvin Head
One-of-a-kind gifts and works of art are within reach, thanks to the talented Indigenous artists who set up shop in northern Manitoba. Jasyn Lucas, member of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation, is a well known wildlife and landscape artist who recently moved into a permanent space in Thompson with his partner Nikki Brightnose. The Gift of Art (409-79 Selkirk Avenue in Thompson) serves as both an art gallery and a tattoo parlour for the creative pair, displaying works of art by Jasyn as well as pieces collected from travels abroad. The gallery is open to the public by appointment.
For a more traditional gallery, head southwest to the Northern Buffalo Art Gallery (103 Portage Road) in Cranberry-Portage. Home to the work of local Irvin Head, the gallery space is a hidden gem for soap stone and wood carvings and frequently features guest artists.
Eskimo Museum in Churchill
Flin Flon Station Museum
The Eskimo Museum in Churchill, Manitoba has long been revered by visitors, boasting one of the finest collections of Inuit artifacts. The artifacts and carvings housed in the museum are some of the world’s oldest, tracing the history of the Pre-Dorset, Dorset and Inuit peoples and dating back to 1700 B.C. As an added bonus, the museum gift shop is rich with northern books, Canadian Inuit art, and local carvings, prints, beaded mitts, moccasins, mukluks, parkas and stone cut prints.
Heritage North Museum
The Sam Waller Museum in the Pas (306 Fischer Avenue) is undoubtedly one of the most unique museums in the province – with curiosities and collectibles displayed alongside the rich history of the north. The museum’s exhibits cover geological formations of the region, First Nations history, the fur trade and Métis history. Following a similar vein, the Heritage North Museum in Thompson (162 Princeton Drive) combines Indigenous traditions with mining history and nature exhibits to create a well-rounded museum on Manitoba’s north. The museum excels in Indigenous artifacts (including an authentic caribou hide tipi).
Photo by instagram.com/jessicabnf17 (National Aboriginal Day in Thompson)
Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival
Plan your trip around a lively festival to get a real taste for northern community and culture. Summer is bursting with festivals that bring together traditional Indigenous ceremony with the spirit of the north. The Thompson National Aboriginal Day Celebrations take place at the end of June and promote cultural understanding and Aboriginal pride. Visitors have the opportunity to participate in and witness traditional ceremonies such as the Sunrise ceremony (a traditional ceremony to welcome the day) and gain new understanding with teachings taking place within the Tipi. Moving into July, Cross Lake holds its annual Treaty and Indian Days, featuring York boat races, canoe races and yes – even a voyageur race.
Opaskwayak Indian Days
Treaty & York Boat Days in Norway House
The Fox Lake Cultural Festival in Gillam is slated to return for its third debut in summer 2017, with traditional pow wows, cultural workshops and live performances.
The fun continues in August with two of the largest festivals held in Indigenous communities. The Opaskwayak Indian Days
are held every third week of August and focus on Cree traditions and cultures, with competitive events such as the Canoe Classic, the Indian Princess Pageant and Traditional Events. Norway House is home to the last big festival of the summer, the Treaty & York Boat Days
. The week long celebration features the World Championship York Boat Race and aims to honour the Cree, Metis and European settlers that formed the community.
Opaskwayak Indian Days
In true Manitoba fashion, the festivals only continue as the temperatures drop. Manitoba’s oldest festival, the Northern Manitoba Trappers’ Festival
focuses on the diverse cultural heritage of the Northern Pioneer, while offering a glimpse into Aboriginal cultures with an annual jigging competition. The Cross Lake Annual Winter Festival
(February) is a week-long celebration with a mix of tradition and non-traditional events. Participants can dance along to jigging performances, try their hand at bannock making or watch a snowshoe race. The Thompson Winterfest
(February) takes place around the same time and also features a jigging contest and plenty of winter activities. The Churchill Aurora Winterfest
(March) marks the end of the Hudson Bay Quest
and features Aboriginal drumming, square dancing, snow sculpting and igloo building.
Did we miss any important Indigenous landmarks, celebrations or places of interest in northern Manitoba? Tell us in the comments!