Connecting to the land and its stories in Northwest Saskatchewan
The area around Meadow Lake is distinct for its pristine beauty. Picture this – lush forests, calm, clear lakes, and skies that dazzle with cloud pictures during the day and northern lights at night. It is where the traditional lands of First Nations and Métis peoples reflect stories and customs that bridge cultures and teach respect for the land and the natural world. Indigenous experiences are at the forefront of local tourism development, and operators are eager to welcome visitors.
Cree North Adventures
Blaine Mirasty launched his tourism business, Cree North Adventures, in 2019. The operation is next to his home on Flying Dust First Nation, near Meadow Lake, and provides guests with the experience of sleeping in an 18-ft. “glamping-style” tipi, participating in land-based activities, hearing stories told by Elders, and learning about Indigenous traditions and culture.
Mirasty cites a Cree word, miyo-pimâtisiwin, to explain his motivation for the venture. “It means the Cree way,” he said. “Learning skills to live off the land is an aspect that I want to bring back. That is how I see tourism – as a way of relearning culture and relearning some of the traditional practices, even language.”
His family is a blend of Plains and Woodland Cree, and customs from both branches are woven into the visitor experience. “They are two different traditional lifestyles,” he said. “My dad’s side, the Plains Cree, were about riding horses and following the bison. On my mom’s side, the Woodland Cree, it was about trapping and living in the forest.”
Cree North Adventures guests enjoy a range of experiences, in addition to the comfortable tipi accommodations. Options include horse-drawn wagon rides, canoeing and kayaking along the Meadow River, Elder storytelling and campfire cooking demonstrations, traditional women’s Fancy Dance performances, and more. In winter, there are guided snowshoe tours along the river and through the boreal forest. Other land-based activities can be scheduled, on demand.
The location is a prime spot for stargazing, with minimal light pollution and typically clear, dark skies overhead. During the fall and winter months, colourful northern lights animate the night sky.
Cree North Adventures continues to evolve, with plans underway for expanding the site and enhancing experiences – all in the spirit of miyo-pimâtisiwin. Mirasty and his team welcome guests to engage in hands-on learning, connect to the land and make new discoveries about Cree life in northwest Saskatchewan.
Watch to learn more about Cree North Adventures.
kâniyâsihk Culture Camps
Further west on Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation, kâniyâsihk Culture Camps has been delivering immersive land-based learning opportunities for more than 20 years.
Owner and founder Kevin Lewis wears many hats – host, educator, guide, knowledge and language keeper, scholar and researcher. He refers to the Cree word oskâpêwis to describe his role. “It means a person who is a server, who serves the community and helps the Elders,” he said. “That person might develop into one of the best hunters, berry pickers or medicine gatherers. You are making sure that everybody is fed, everybody is looked after, but also looking out for yourself and staying healthy, so you can continue the work.”
Like its founder, kâniyâsihk Culture Camps is multi-faceted. The four-season operation offers a range of land-based programming that explores traditional customs and skills. Offerings include multi-day backpacking expeditions that take guests fishing, hiking, berry picking and gathering plants and ingredients for basic teas. In winter, programs and packages are designed around dogsledding, ice fishing, traditional trapping and other seasonal activities. An annual fall hide tanning camp engages local experts in teaching techniques to harvest and tan moose, elk and deer hides.
Lewis acknowledges the positive, reciprocal experience of welcoming and hosting guests. “We’ve made devout friends over 20 years and continue to make more,” he said. “When people visit, they bring health, they bring friendship. It’s not just us delivering a program or saying, ‘we’re going to show you this.’ They, as equals, bring their teachings, as well.”
kâniyâsihk Culture Camps has several winterized guest cabins and a lake house – cosy places to rest after a day out on the land. Tipis and trappers tents are popular accommodations in warmer months. The camp also has a limited number of RV sites. Visitors are encouraged to detach from their devices and be fully present in all learning and experiences offered – lack of cell service and limited Wi-Fi make that easier.