Human-shaped petroform in Whiteshell Provincial Park.
Tucked into the southeastern corner of Manitoba on Lake of the Woods, Buffalo Point Resort sits on the idyllic peninsula that shares it name.
The Indigenous-owned property boasts 11 kilometres of white sand beaches, calm waters in a sustainable fishery, and stretches of pristine boreal forest. I’ve come for a little fishing, feasting, swimming—and learning about Indigenous culture. Buffalo Point First Nation operates the resort in partnership with Lake of the Sandhills Golf Course, which is wholly controlled by the community.
Under the tipi-shaped roof of the Cultural Centre, I take a deep dive into the region’s Indigenous heritage. Thunderbirds grace the entrance of the centre, where exhibits trace regional history—from the 1700s, when Chief Red Cloud and the Sioux inhabited the land, to the arrival of the Ojibwa in the 19th century.
At Fire and Water Bistro, I sample dishes made with local Reed River Rice harvested by Indigenous people from the community. Be sure to order pan-fried pickerel served with a smoked bean cassolette over the aforementioned wild rice.
Though food is a powerful thread through First Nations history, a powwow is the ultimate Indigenous experience. Their exact origins remain disputed, Northern Plains First Nations hosted inter-tribal powwow dances throughout the 19th century. Today, they are cultural exchanges featuring healing ceremonies, Indigenous dance, music, food and art.
The grand entry of any powwow is a feast for the senses. “The beat of the big drum, medicines burning, the bright colours and designs of ornate regalia, little children dancing…it nearly brings tears to my eyes,” says Katherine Legrange, communications manager of Winnipeg’s Manito Ahbee Festival. Held annually every May long weekend, the festival kicks off the powwow season across Turtle Island.
Legrange admits it’s an important gathering for Indigenous people—but one that is equally important for non-Indigenous people to attend.
“Non-Indigenous are sometimes worried about making mistakes or offending us,” she says. “That’s why we offer workshops where knowledge keepers share the meaning behind our traditions and basic etiquette.”
A deeper understanding of cultural customs, language and activities puts people at ease. “It helps bridge any divide that people might feel.”