Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung centre open for summer

Sam Odrowski

The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre (Manitou Mounds) recently welcomed a handful of people on guided and self-guided tours of the historic lands during its seasonal opening.
This hidden gem, located along the Rainy River between Barwick and Stratton, is home to the largest burial mound in Canada.
The stretch of land contains 15 ancient burial mounds. Although many of them were constructed thousands of years ago, there also are newer mounds that were re-built in the 1990s.
The historical site itself holds a longstanding history of indigenous life and culture, with many artifacts from the area set up on display inside the historical centre’s various exhibits.
“We’ve been able to do some new facility upgrades inside the main centre and so we have a lot more interactive displays now,” said Kayleigh Speirs.
“People will be able to come and watch audio and visual videos, and interviews that have been done throughout the community over the last 10-20 years that we now have digitized,” she noted.
“So people can come and explore those stories that haven’t really been shared before.”
The displays themselves show a mix of artifacts, knowledge, and culture to demonstrate a history of the lands.
“It takes you on a journey to the past starting with some of the most recent history, so it has images of some of the village sites and the wild ricing activities and the sturgeon activities that people still do today,” Speirs explained.
“And then it brings you all the way back to some of the first occupations in the area, as well.”
Stories about the lands–written in both Ojibwe and English–also are available to visitors.
“It’s definitely a way to immerse yourself in another culture and to learn about Ojibwe traditions, language, and lifestyle,” Speirs enthused.
She noted the way the information is delivered is very interactive and engaging. For instance, some exhibits feature nature sounds gently playing in the background to really bring them to life.
While the history itself is fascinating for visitors, a lot of the experience the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung site provides comes from the lands themselves.
What makes the grounds worth visiting, in Speirs’ opinion, is “the outstanding beauty and how unique it is.”
“It’s a little-known treasure that we’re definitely hoping to spread the word about some more and let other people experience what we get to experience every day,” she remarked.
The area is lush with towering oak trees, poplars, and birch, as well as 360 different plant species that have remained there for thousands of years.
Many of these plants have medicinal value and elders sometimes will visit the Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung trails to do medicine walks.
The deer and pelican activities, amongst other wildlife, also make the lands a great place for sightseeing.
There are roughly 10 km of trail throughout the grounds that saw a recent expansion last summer into what the centre calls “Strawberry Picking Creek.”
The trails are open year-round and used for dogsledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing during the winter months.
A little-known fact about the centre is that people are more than welcome to bring their kayaks or canoes and launch them into the river to explore that area, as well.
“It’s all up to their own discretion,” Speirs said.
Looking ahead, the centre’s staff hope to host interactive workshops throughout the summer.
“If we do it, it will hopefully be some stone tool-making workshops and maybe some pottery workshops,” Speirs noted.
In regard to new things they would like to do at the centre, “We definitely have a lot of ideas,” she said.
Speirs encourages district residents to visit the centre to witness breath-taking scenery while learning something new about indigenous culture.
The historical centre is open Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. during the summer months.
To learn more about the grounds or to book a tour, call 483-1163 or e-mail mounds.rrfn@bellnet.ca