Visiting Manitou Mounds: 8,000 Years of History

The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre, which is also known as the Manitou Mounds, is a place of outstanding natural beauty as well as a place of rich cultural and historical significance. It is located on Shaw Rd, near Stratten Ontario. This is about 65 km west of Fort Frances and about 32 km from Rainy River, which is the end of Highway 11 at the Minnesota border. Normally people driving across Canada head up Highway 71 toward Kenora. This site is worth the detour.

Inhabited continually for more than eight thousand years, this national historic site is staffed by members of the Rainy River First Nations who provide interpretations and opportunities to learn about the Ojibway people who lived and gathered here. In addition to a 3 km interpretive trail among the ancient burial mounds, the site features a ceremonial round house, a massive museum with art galleries and conservation rooms, plus ongoing archaeological activities, rendezvous reenactments, and even an 1800s village with living historians in traditional clothing providing a wealth of information relevant to the site itself and to the lives of the First Nations people themselves.

Translated to English, Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung means “The Place of the Long Rapids.” It has been a historic site since 1970, but it has held deep cultural and spiritual meaning for First Nations peoples for centuries. Situated forty miles from the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River, the area served as a trading network where people from across the North American continent would gather to trade precious items such as copper, marine shells, and exotic stone; they also came together to celebrate achievements and mourn losses here. Earlier inhabitants from the Archaic culture left their marks here as well; throughout the surrounding area, a stunning record of human life dating back to as long as 8,000 years ago is still being discovered.

Highlights of a Visit to Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung

Of course, the burial mounds themselves, built over the course of hundreds of years, are a truly compelling sight to behold. Formed when a shallow pit would be dug for a deceased individual, with another placed on top and covered, and additional remains added over time, the mounds are layered grave sites and are considered to be sacred. At the visitors centre, you will learn more about the way the mounds were constructed, plus you will be given guidelines to follow as you visit.

There are also five galleries containing the story of the Ojibway, as well as an intimate look at the life of the river itself. As you go from one level to another, you’ll learn about everything from the way the people who lived here fished and harvested rice, to the way that they interacted with one another and with later European visitors.

An aquarium featuring sturgeon and other freshwater fish can be viewed as well; huge, at 4,000 gallons, it provides insight into the lives of the fish themselves and the role the fish played in the lives of early people who lived and died here.

In the Conservation Lab, where all sorts of artifacts are carefully cleaned, preserved, and catalogued, you can see some of the more than 10,000 artifacts that have been preserved to date. The roundhouse may be visited as well, and if you are fortunate, you will be able to see or even participate in dancing, singing, and ceremonies. Last, but certainly not least, there is a restaurant on site which serves traditional Ojibway cuisine, and there is a gift shop where you can find all kinds of memorabilia. In-depth tours lasting as long as two weeks are available for those with an interest in learning even more about the Ojibway and those who came

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