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Manitoulin Island, Ontario

Manitoulin Island is unique in many ways – it is the world’s largest sweet water or freshwater Island, it has more than a hundred inland lakes between its shores and many of those lakes have Islands on them! There are more than two dozen small settlements, first nations and towns spread out across more than 160 kilometres of boreal forest, lakes, rivers, shorelines, escarpments, meadows and alvars.

The people and the communities of Manitoulin Island have emerged through a history as colourful and complex as any in Canada – from the fur trade to free trade, from the ice age to the new age.  The histories show through at every turn, from fossils to lighthouses, under these same stars, with native and non-native communities across the Island co-existing like no-where else on the continent.  As a result, it is a place of stories.

The Manitoulin Island lifestyle continues as it has for generations – in close mutual relationship with the environment and resources of the land.  It is a peaceful and spiritual place. It is a place of important community knowledge and traditional skills, and a place where this knowledge and these skills are shared openly and generously. From organic farming to hunting and trapping, from permaculture to aquaculture – the diversity of practice is a diverse as the 24 communities.

Like all Northern Ontarians, the people of Manitoulin Island are active in the outdoors all year round, and find many occasions to share in healthy celebrations of local foods with neighbours and visitors. A wide range of cultural arts and entertainment activities are found across the Island, as well as sporting and recreational activities in all seasons.

For many visitors, Manitoulin Island is like going back to the good old days – small town friendly, ice cream on the boardwalk, fishing from the dock in pajamas, a canoe ride at sunset and a story around the campfire about the guy down the road who can fix anything.

For other visitors, it is an explosion of the cultural expression of rural Canada – a rich and fertile mix influenced by the Indigenous culture of the Anishnaabeg – people of the Woodlands – and the generations of industrious settler culture from which emerged our towns, our farms, our communities emerged.

And for some, it is like an awakening to what being Canadian is all about. People are drawn to Manitoulin Island from all over the world, and the Island is by no means homogenous in thought or actions. The first settlers on Manitoulin Island arrived one cold November day in the early 1800’s to conduct an experiment – the Manitowaning Experiment. Itwas based on the concept of a skills share. The experiment continues to today and are all still learning from one another.

Manitoulin Island offers many activities, programs for travellers and special events to take part in. But it also offers the opposite – a place to escape to, a place where you can intentionally set out to get lost, have your own unique experience with the beauty and nature the Island offers, and eventually, you will find your way home. It’s an Island after all. The Heart and Spirit of the Great Lakes of Canada, it is a place of convergence – the mountains with the lakes, the Indigenous culture with the settler culture, the northern eco-zone with the southern eco-zone, and quartzite energy veins with human destiny.

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