Stroll a wooded waterside pathway with Mi’kmaq guides clad in traditional, homemade moose hide regalia and moccasins. Step inside a spacious tipi in a forest clearing and rest on a cushion alongside a fire pit to experience a soothing and purifying smudge ceremony with the scented smoke from healing herbs.
“Our goal is to provide a hands-on, authentic immersion into the music, food and folklore of the world’s biggest Mi’kmaq community of Eskasoni,” says Sandra Macdonald, the band-run company’s Tourism Manager. “The Eskasoni community of 4,500 people is very enthusiastic about sharing views of Mi’kmaq life.”
Set along a 2.3-km trail around Goat Island on Cape Breton’s tranquil Bras d’Or Lakes are a series of “stations” manned by passionate band members. Learn to make your own “four cent” cake - the popular snack created from leftover dough fried in lard - over an open fire.
Learn insights among traditional hunting and fishing practices. Get up and try the koujua dance alongside a lady in a “jingle dress” whose rows of small metal cones make a tinkling sound as she moves. Practice your drumming. Listen to music. Play the ancient game of waltes and discover the practice of heating a tipi with glowing-hot rocks from a fire. At a reconstructed trading post, hear the stories of how Europeans once exchanged medicine and tobacco for pelts and hides.
“The immersion is delivered with much love and dedication to Mi’kmaq culture,” says Macdonald. “We encourage visitors to take their time and ask lots of questions.” The roughly 3-hour experience finishes with tea and warm Mi’kmaq luskinigan, a warm bannock bread baked in an oven, delicious with jam or molasses. Then, it’s off to the gift shop for a handmade memory of your day to take home.