Dwelling to Prince Edward Island’s largest Mi’kmaq group, Lennox Island is a small, cashew-shaped island tucked into Malpeque Bay, a few 30-minute drive from Summerside. Its waterfront space is charming, with a sublime, tall-spired Catholic church and former rectory painted pale yellow in opposition to the backdrop of purple sand and deep, flat blue water.
Our household has booked a guided expertise referred to as Bannock and Clams on the Sand on the Mi’kmaq Tradition Centre, which occupies the previous manse. After we arrived, we met our guides, Kelly Sark and Future Myers, who had been tending a campfire in anticipation of our arrival.
Fireplace, says Sark, is necessary to the Mi’kmaq for a lot of causes: for heat, cooking, smoking meat and fish, tanning animal hides for sneakers and garments, and for ceremony.
We gathered at a big picnic desk, the place my son helped combine the dough — produced from a easy recipe of flour, salt, baking powder and oil — into a big, spherical loaf. Utilizing a long-handled shovel, Sark dug a gap in the course of the campfire and buried the bread, protecting it with a layer of white flour, adopted by sizzling coals.
“Once you’re making meals for individuals, you shouldn’t do it once you’re indignant,” says Sark. “You need to have good vibes, good intentions and a superb mindset…you need to cook dinner with love, and also you need to nourish no matter you might be cooking with good vitality.”
In a mushy voice, Sark started telling tales, permitting the legends, not the storyteller, to take the stage. Though the fireplace that day was not ceremonial, these tales, mixed with the crackling of the wooden and the skinny gray smoke drifting throughout us introduced my household to a particular place.
We discovered of the legendary Kluskap, born of lightning, who meets his grandmother for the primary time on a seaside. Grandmother tells Kluskap to go to the water’s edge and put some tobacco within the ocean. He then catches a feast of fish, which he shares with the elder.
“Each time we take one thing, we’ve received to place one thing again,” explains Sark.
Lennox Island Cultural Experiences have drawn curiosity from throughout the nation. In 2017, the tradition centre received the Parks Canada Sustainable Tourism Award for drawing consideration and appreciation for the pure, cultural and aesthetic heritage of Lennox Island and the Mi’kmaq individuals.
Not too way back, Sark says, a well-known Indigenous chef referred to as Richie Francis got here and did some cooking at Lennox Island.
“He wrapped a lobster in bannock,” Sark remembers, “and lilacs had been out on the time. He used lilacs in a sizzling sauce and put it within the oysters. It was so good.”
In 2020, Indigenous tourism, which had been one of many fastest-growing sectors within the Canadian tourism business, was hit arduous by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. By summer season 2021, the variety of Indigenous-led companies was slashed by almost 50 per cent, and an estimated 25,000 Indigenous tourism workers misplaced their jobs, in response to the Indigenous Tourism Affiliation of Canada.
“It’s been fairly lonely,” admits Jamie Thomas, director of the Cultural Centre, who says that Lennox Island is happy to welcome vacationers again to their group.
As our bannock cooked, we visited a memorial the place 215 pairs of sneakers, positioned on a blanket, symbolize the 215 kids whose stays had been present in Kamloops, British Columbia in Might 2021. There have since been a whole lot of extra burial websites found on former residential faculty websites throughout the nation.
Myers, a mom of two, talks concerning the kids.
“Regardless that they’re not right here, they’re right here in spirit and now they’re free to stay their tradition, so we blessed them, and we smudged them…and now they’re free to go to the creator. They’re not misplaced anymore, and so they’re free to search out their mother and father,” she says.
With our hearts heavy, we discover the small museum contained in the cultural centre, which holds artifacts, photographs and work that honour Lennox Island’s historical past, together with a birch bark canoe that’s over 120 years previous.
We returned to the fireplace to take pleasure in recent oysters (no clams at this time), which bubbled and popped as they cook dinner over the coals. Then lastly, the bannock is unearthed from its sand-oven and delivered to the desk.
Sark used the knife to cut away an outer layer of flour and ashes earlier than slicing the nice and cozy loaf into thick chunks, which we slathered with margarine and selfmade jam.
As we shared a meal within the sunshine by the fireplace, my kids had been calm and completely happy. We discovered rather a lot, and are grateful.
Taking steerage from Kluskap’s grandmother, I ponder what we will do to “put one thing again.”
Helen Earley is a Halifax-based journey author and creator of “25 Household Adventures in Nova Scotia.” She was a visitor of Tourism Prince Edward Island, which didn’t overview or approve this text.