See What We See: Indigenous Experiences in Newfoundland and LabradorBy Newfoundland & Labrador Indigenous Tourism Association
This travel article is brought to us by our friends at the Newfoundland and Labrador Indigenous Tourism Association (NLITA).
Newfoundland and Labrador is home to three distinct Indigenous groups: the Inuit, Innu, and the Mi'Kmaq. The Inuit of Labrador are descendants of the Thule, and have made Labrador their home for centuries. Descended from Algonkian-speaking hunter-gatherers, Innu are found in Labrador while Mi’kmaq have lived and travelled throughout Newfoundland for generations.
Walk with these Mi'kmaq guides as they take the path of their ancestors while sharing stories of their history and living culture.
Pirates Haven Adventures is a nature-based getaway operating in Robinsons, on the Southwest Coast of Newfoundland. Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Newfoundland while exploring the trails by ATV, hiking the rugged coast, or fly fishing for Atlantic salmon on one of the local rivers. Enjoy four star accommodations with all the comforts of home, or settle into your RV on one of the fully serviced sites.
ATV tours are customizable and so is the personal touch that Paul Gale and his family add for their guests. Paul and Ruth go above and beyond to offer unique experiences for all, including fly tying workshops and cook-ups on the beach.
Janice Flynn is the nature enthusiast behind Birding by Season. Passionate about the natural world and its conservation, Janice brings awareness to the beauty and subtlety of local bird species and their place in our ecosystem. Experience spectacular coastlines, boreal forest, and a diversity of birdlife; join Janice for a tour on the Southwest coast of Newfoundland where you can slow down, breathe deep, and look up.
Eric Bourgeois and his dynamic team at Everoutdoor Adventures turn historical events into adventure with their tours and expeditions around the stunning Bay of Islands on the west coast of Newfoundland. Their Zodiac boat, “The Elmastukwek” (Mi’kmaw for “Bay of Islands” ) travels to Wood’s Island, an island community from which many Mi’kmaq were relocated in the mid-twentieth century. Eric shares his knowledge of the area as people no longer live on Woods Island, though many families still visit the area and own summer cabins.
The adventures continue with guided tours and custom expeditions, ranging from relaxing and picturesque day trips to extremely challenging two and three day backwoods hikes. When the tours are done, guests head to the Everoutdoor Adventure’s Saltbox restaurant, in the very town where residents of Wood’s Island were relocated, Benoit’s Cove. True to their ancestors' ways, the Saltbox specializes in fresh Newfoundland seafood.
Darren Park is the Newfoundland fisherman and local guide behind Four Seasons Tours. Aboard a classic Newfoundland dory, guests adventure with Darren for a morning of laughs, fishing, and an early morning sunrise view of Cox’s Cove. Visitors learn how to jig cod fish while taking in the views of Cox’s Cove, Women’s Cove and the many arms of the bay. Darren treats his guests with a personal experience at his own cabin where they gather for a mussel boil up and the laughs continue.
Darren’s expertise in local fishing in the Bay of Islands is unmatched, and so is the experience he provides for every one of his guests.
Keith Payne of Gros Morne Adventures takes you on a tour of the landscapes in a sea-going zodiac, on his Indigenous tour Discover Mekapisk. Keith’s knowledge of local land and sea will open your eyes to the ways and values of the first people. Discover the plants, animals and raw materials of the area, and use the skills of the Indigenous people to cook bannock and roast capelin over an open fire.
Trina Reid is a storyteller and tour guide whose family comes from the Gros Morne community of Bakers Brook. Stories of hunting, fishing, foraging and traditional ways of life are all part of the adventure with Tina at Under the Stump. Experience the Rita Rideout Story as Tina recounts the history of her grandparents while walking along the now resettled community of Bakers Brook. You’ll learn about both English and Mi’kmaq history through the story of one family. Immerse yourselves in natural beauty, flora and fauna, breathtaking views and become a part of the tradition while you harvest mussels along the rocky beach.
You'll find some of the most colourful accommodations in Western Newfoundland at Appalachian Chalets and RV. With a backdrop of the Blow Me Down Mountains, you can hop on your snowmobile or ATV and hit the trails right outside your cabin.
Head to Central Newfoundland and the south coast to visit Miawpukek Mi'kamawey Mawi'omi, a Mi'kmaq First Nation Reserve located at the mouth of the Conne River in Bay d'Espoir. There's a powwow held here every July that will introduce you to Newfoundland Mi'kmaq traditions, including plenty of dancing, spiritual walks, and special ceremonies. At the Miawpukek Culture and Family Recreation Park, you may encounter locals building a traditional birchbark canoe, and don't forget to climb the wooden staircase to the top of Clem's Lookout for an incredible view over the bay. The Mi'kmaq Discovery Centre is also close to here, featuring a gallery of local artists and several workshops where visitors can participate in Indigenous craft workshops like jewellery making.
Inuit and Innu Experiences
Moving North from the island to Labrador and meet the Southern Inuit, Innu and Labrador Inuit.
Blanche Earle often greets her Basinview B&B guest at BNL Enterprise which is a convenience Store/Gas Station and RV Park. Here you can sit, enjoy a snack and look across the water where Basque fished and harvested whales centuries ago. If you are ending your busy day or about to embark on a full agenda to see the sites of the Labrador Straits or Southern Labrador the Basinview B&B is perfectly located. The Provincial Historical site at Point Amour lighthouse, a delicious meal at Seaview Restaurants in Forteau or Whalers Restaurant in Red Bay, a hike along the Pioneer Footpath, discover archaeological treasures and of course the Red Bay National Historical Site and UNESCO World Heritage Site are just a few things to see and do during your stay. If B&B is not your thing, book into Whalers Stations at the end of West Harbour Drive.
Charlene Rumbolt is an Inuit Artist specializing in painting and fibre art pieces. She also enjoys creating traditional Inuit Crafts and working with traditional materials. She gets her inspiration from the land around her and her indigenous culture. In addition to her amazing talent that is tastefully displayed throughout the Great Caribou Studio in Mary’s Harbour, Labrador, she offers an array of demonstration workshops. She is always creating something new; schedule time to take a break, enjoy a snack and watch her create magic right before your eyes. The Great Caribou Studio is a great place to wait for your ferry to Battle Harbour National Historic Site or have a coffee with your captain of Cloud Nine Boat Charters and Tours before you leave the dock.
Carol Burden, manager of Alexis Hotel in Port Hope Simpson, is your connection to southern Labrador where life was never easy. No matter the season, there is always something interesting to see and do. Want to learn about sled dogs? Or want to explore abandoned fishing communities? Or connect with Indigenous knowledge holders of Inuit life and the resources that were key to survival along the coastline. When booking, share a list of things you are hoping to see and do, and she will let you know what is possible. She will also make other suggestions that are not advertised and reserved for those who have a keen interest in the Labrador way of life.
If your goal is to visit several Inuit coastal communities, you will need to book at least 2 nights, but 3 is best. A short 45-minute road trip in either direction will bring you to Charlottetown, St. Lewis, or Mary’s Harbour. There are excellent places to eat along the way including Alexis Dining Room; Campbell’s Place Diner located in Port Hope Simpson, Seatown Café and Little John’s Take out in Charlottetown and Connie’s Café in Mary’s Harbour.
Ford Savory is a licensed Inuit fishing guide. If you have an hour or a full day, step aboard his boat in Port Hope Simpson and he will show you where to cast your line. If you have more time, it is best to schedule a half-day or longer to catch and taste your catch along the shoreline using Inuit style food preservation methods. A ride with Big Land Boat Tours through the Gilbert’s Bay Marine Protected Area is a great retreat from the everyday routine.
George & Pete Barrett are your land-based guides who offer visitors a chance to learn, discover and participate. When visiting Cartwright and the awe inspiring Wunderstrands in the Mealy Mountain National Park Reserve, your first stop is at the Mealy Mountain Gallery. During late evening as you reflect on your day around the warmth of the firepit you will be amazed at what you were able to experience in one day.
From Cartwright there is a 400 km drive through the Labrador Interior, crossing many watersheds which were the roads and access ways to resources that Indigenous peoples in Labrador depend on for time immemorial. After checking into the award winning indigenous owned hotel Royal Inn and Suites you can relax and prepare for a full day or learning about the rich history and culture of Labrador.
Taking a tour with Northern Lights Dog Sledding is a must see and do experience. Here you will meet Scott, the kennels acts as an outlet to share his passion he holds for Labrador, dog sledding and his Inuit Culture.
In Labrador there are three rich Indigenous groups. In North West River (a 20-minute drive from Happy Valley Goose Bay), you'll arrive at the Labrador Interpretation Centre and become acquainted with the people who make the Big Land great. Or drop by the Visitor Centre at Labrador North Chamber of Commerce that will connect you an array of things to see and do.
To get really off-grid, head even further north to Nunatsiavut. Nunatsiavut in Inuttitut means “Our Beautiful Land” and it refers to an established land claim region on the north coast of Labrador which is the ancestral home of the Labrador Inuit.
Accessible only by coastal marine vessel in the summer and by twin-otter air service year round, the region is 72,520 square km of rugged coast, mountains, tundra, and forest. It is roughly the size of the province of New Brunswick. Despite its vastness, the population of Nunatsiavut is just over 2,500 people residing in five communities along the northern Labrador coast, namely Rigolet, Postville, Makkovik, Hopedale and Nain.
Nunatsiavut is far from an empty land as the Inuit travel, hunt, fish and gather across the entire region just as their ancestors did for hundreds of years. The only thing more memorable than the breathtaking landscapes and seascapes is the warmness of the people. Here you can experience a mix of traditional culture and modern convenience.
During the summer you can make a stop at each community, enjoying experiences unique to the Labrador Inuit and purchase crafts of sealskin, grass, beading, knitting, jewellery, carvings and art. In Nain you can visit Illusuak, the newly opened Cultural Centre where you can absorb the history, language, culture and artistry of the Labrador Inuit.
To inquire or customize your experience Nunatsiavut in please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're feeling extra adventurous, you can plan an excursion to the northern most point where you can visit the breathtaking views of the Torngat Mountains National Park and visit the Hebron National Historic Site.
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