Embrace Winter in Canada with These Indigenous Experiences
Credit: David Daley, Wapusk Adventures, Churchill, Manitoba
Elsewhere in the world, winter is a time to wrap up and hide from the weather, but in Canada it’s a season to embrace. And who knows better how to have fun in the snow than Indigenous peoples who have lived on their land for centuries and share these great ideas about how to enjoy whatever winter brings. Whether it’s a fun festival in Saskatchewan, a walk through the woods in downtown Vancouver on the trail of Potlatch season, or building an igloo in Nunavut, there’s plenty of adventures to have if you wrap up!
Be inspired by these winter wonders and start planning a getaway now.
Sled with the Pros in Churchill, Manitoba
Owner-operators of one of the largest sled dog kennel in Canada, Churchill Manitoba’s Wapusk Adventures is celebrating the launch of the winter season with a brand new teepee custom painted with a unique design. “This symbolises who I am,” says David Daley, “I’m Métis, and was born here in Churchill. The polar bear and cub coming out of the circle of color represents the colours of the northern lights, and the dog team represents my passion for dog sledding!” Open for sledding experiences which also showcase modern Métis culture, through till the end of March, Wapusk has a small community of racing huskies – each with their own personality and style – plus a trapper cabin, groomed trail system, custom designed tour sleds and even resident gray jays!
Winter Festival Fun in Saskatoon
Head to the Wanuskewin Heritage Park, just outside Saskatoon for the Kôna – Wanuskewin Winter Festival, an exciting, immersive one-day event on February 10th, packed with more than 20 family-friendly activities. Celebrate Indigenous culture at this free event, and spend the day exploring the park and learning more about the peoples of the Northern Plains through story telling, puppet theatre, and fun activities. Join in a kick sled tour, play voyageur games, learn snare & trap settings, and maybe take part in the three-handed drum contest! Warm up around the fire with bannock and tea, and get ready to check out the hotly contested fiddle and jigging competition! Don’t miss the ‘Really, Really, Really Antique Road Show’ with Dr Ernie Walker, where you can learn the science & history behind the bones or tools you’ve always wondered about.
Experience Life in an Igloo in Nunavut
Immerse yourself in a true Inuit winter adventure with Solomon Malliki and the Arctic Wilderness Outfitter team, at the edge of the Arctic Circle. Learn how to build an igloo, which will be your home for a few nights, sleep soundly under skies dancing with the Northern Lights. Discover traditional skills and knowledge in one of the world’s most breathtaking unspoiled wilderness regions.
Take a Cultural Snowshoe Tour with Painted Warriors
Brand new for 2018, Alberta’s Painted Warriors have four different snowshoe tours taking in everything from stargazing, to medicine walks and understanding animal tracks; all of which take place in the forest where guests can learn about plant identification for medicine, and end on a cosy note with bush tea, hot berry soup and bannock around the campfire or back at the Hungry Wolf Trading Post.
Snowshoe beginner? There’s a three-hour Culture Tour that’s perfect for newbies which takes in Métis and different First Nations’s culture, and the importance of snowshoes. Head out under the stars for a four-hour night tour which combines snowshoeing with traditional stories about the constellations. Love spotting animals in the wild? Take the special animal-tracking tour where guests can learn to identify different tracks such as moose and pine martens. The four-hour Discovery Tour combines all the elements of the other tours, along with the chance to get hands-on and learn new skills such as natural navigation, and geology—all with a First Nations perspective. This tour ends back at the campfire making pemmican and bannock!
Hear Stories of Winter Potlatch Season in Vancouver
For the Coast Salish, winter is their most culturally enriched season, and visitors can dive straight in and learn more with Vancouver’s Talaysay Tours. “Winter is the potlatch season,” says Candace Campo of Talaysay Tours. “Our people congregated and hosted various tribes as far down as the Oregon coast. Talaysay tours emphasize the rich diversity of cultures that developed via the Potlatch. In our tours during the winter, we emphasize the inter-tribal relations, development of the arts, theatre and languages and inter-tribal relations that were formed and renewed via the winter potlatch.”
Talaysay’s new Spoken Treasures tour explores the rich extended history of Vancouver and the seven main tribes that lived here for countless generations. Over Potlatch time, the host tribe would feed, host and entertain their guests with theatre, music and dance; business would be done, and there would be inter-marriage between tribes. Stanley Park hosted much of that and it’s a significant site for the the host tribes: the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh nations, many of whom still live in the area.