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Mi’kmaq and FDR in New Brunswick, Canada

Miramichi River, Metepenagiag Nation, New Brunswick, Canada.
Miramichi River, Metepenagiag Nation, New Brunswick, Canada.

Though I spent a week in New Brunswick, I could see that I just touched the surface of all the different places and cultures of the Canadian Atlantic province. But two aspects stood out as being worth checking out all on their own: the reserve of the Metepenagiag – also known as “Red Bank” – Mi’kmaq Nation, and Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

Visting Mi’kmaq Nation

The Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq are a band of indigenous peoples whose larger tribe spans the Atlantic and Maritime provinces, as well as northeast Maine. They've made a decision in this politically correct era to open themselves to the outside world, to remove misconceptions. They want to share how their celebration of traditional ways fits into modern living.

They have a trio of outreach points, all within walking distance of each other: Red Bank Lodge, Metepenagiag Heritage Park and First Nations Tourism.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Part of living in harmony with nature means living seasonally. Some activities are only available certain times of the year, including sleeping outside in a teepee, kayaking and snowshoeing. So, if you have your heart set on one thing or another, you may have to rearrange your trip.

Red Bank Lodge is an elegant building handcrafted by the tribe from locally harvested eastern cedar trees. Each room has access to a wraparound porch facing the Miramichi River, as well as a hot tub directly under night skies completely without light or other pollution.

Metepenagiag Heritage Park houses cultural treasures, as well as showing a world-class film of their history – starring members of the community, rather than professional actors.

Stop sign at Metepenagiag reserve in Mi'kmaq, French and English.

But the Metepenagiag experience is not looking at things as if it were a fishbowl. Rather, they offer a very special two-way immersion. I got to walk the park trails with tribal elder Tolley Paul. He’s a sort of ambassador for his people, having worked at the United Nations for 15 years and hobnobbed with the likes of Prince Charles.

I started to understand the indigenous perspective when he viewed a wild hazelnut bush with concern. He pointed out that there used to be several of the bushes there. I pointed out that he could take cuttings, grow a whole hazelnut farm if he liked. Paul shook his head: it wasn’t the indigenous way to manipulate nature like that. He did concede that some people might do that, though.

I had a Mi’kmaq style meal: elder Bob Patles spent time cooking in fine dining establishments and cooked for me. He took a plank of local eastern cedar to grill a just-caught wild salmon. Veggies were wild-harvested fiddlehead ferns, a flavor cross between asparagus and green beans.

Back at the lodge, I made a deerskin rattle while conversing with a group of elders. No topic was off-limits: we talked about sports mascots, the recent discovery of hundreds of children’s corpses buried at boarding schools where the indigenous were forced, how the tribe used to be treated off the reserve, dealing with the government, the extent to which they did or did not have a relationship with other tribes. The Mi’kmaq do stand out to a degree from other tribes: as some of their DNA tests reminded them, they first encountered the French over 400 years ago.

Campobello Island

There’s a U.S. national park in Canada? Yes, and it’s accessible by bridge from Lubec, Maine! Roosevelt Campobello National Park is jointly funded and staffed by the U.S. and Canada. The visitor’s center holds an afternoon tea – a favorite social event of Eleanor Roosevelt’s – where each day, a different staff member explores unique aspects of the late First Lady.

There’s a cottage that used to be owned by FDR’s parents, which he later visited with Eleanor. Eleanor did not permit phone lines to be installed to disturb the bucolic nature, so as President, FDR had to make and take calls on a Navy ship anchored in the bay. It was here that FDR was first diagnosed with polio.

(An interesting factoid: FDR, Jr. was born here, so he could never have been President! Surely Eleanor, the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, must have realized the consequence of this.)

Next door at the Prince Cottage is the Prince Café. Sit on the back porch with a water view for a light breakfast or lunch. They accept U.S. and Canadian dollars.

The Porch at Friar’s Bay Inn is the hangout for locals. Plan your evening meals ahead of time, because they only serve dinner certain times of the year and on certain nights. Plus, you lose an hour crossing over from Maine to Atlantic time. They serve locally sourced comfort food, healthy smoothies made to order and coffee drinks. You can also buy local crafts and musicians’ CDs.

The Whale Watch Motel isn’t fancy, but the rooms are spacious, one with a Barcalounger, mini fridge and microwave, a back deck and WiFi. The grounds have games, grills and firepits. The island has a small grocery/liquor store.

Video:

Moose crossing Miramichi River in New Brunswick

Two moose crossing the Miramichi River freaked out at me.

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Miramichi River, Metepenagiag Nation, New Brunswick, Canada.
Miramichi River, Metepenagiag Nation, New Brunswick, Canada.

Though I spent a week in New Brunswick, I could see that I just touched the surface of all the different places and cultures of the Canadian Atlantic province. But two aspects stood out as being worth checking out all on their own: the reserve of the Metepenagiag – also known as “Red Bank” – Mi’kmaq Nation, and Roosevelt Campobello International Park.

Visting Mi’kmaq Nation

The Metepenagiag Mi’kmaq are a band of indigenous peoples whose larger tribe spans the Atlantic and Maritime provinces, as well as northeast Maine. They've made a decision in this politically correct era to open themselves to the outside world, to remove misconceptions. They want to share how their celebration of traditional ways fits into modern living.

They have a trio of outreach points, all within walking distance of each other: Red Bank Lodge, Metepenagiag Heritage Park and First Nations Tourism.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Part of living in harmony with nature means living seasonally. Some activities are only available certain times of the year, including sleeping outside in a teepee, kayaking and snowshoeing. So, if you have your heart set on one thing or another, you may have to rearrange your trip.

Red Bank Lodge is an elegant building handcrafted by the tribe from locally harvested eastern cedar trees. Each room has access to a wraparound porch facing the Miramichi River, as well as a hot tub directly under night skies completely without light or other pollution.

Metepenagiag Heritage Park houses cultural treasures, as well as showing a world-class film of their history – starring members of the community, rather than professional actors.

Stop sign at Metepenagiag reserve in Mi'kmaq, French and English.

But the Metepenagiag experience is not looking at things as if it were a fishbowl. Rather, they offer a very special two-way immersion. I got to walk the park trails with tribal elder Tolley Paul. He’s a sort of ambassador for his people, having worked at the United Nations for 15 years and hobnobbed with the likes of Prince Charles.

I started to understand the indigenous perspective when he viewed a wild hazelnut bush with concern. He pointed out that there used to be several of the bushes there. I pointed out that he could take cuttings, grow a whole hazelnut farm if he liked. Paul shook his head: it wasn’t the indigenous way to manipulate nature like that. He did concede that some people might do that, though.

I had a Mi’kmaq style meal: elder Bob Patles spent time cooking in fine dining establishments and cooked for me. He took a plank of local eastern cedar to grill a just-caught wild salmon. Veggies were wild-harvested fiddlehead ferns, a flavor cross between asparagus and green beans.

Back at the lodge, I made a deerskin rattle while conversing with a group of elders. No topic was off-limits: we talked about sports mascots, the recent discovery of hundreds of children’s corpses buried at boarding schools where the indigenous were forced, how the tribe used to be treated off the reserve, dealing with the government, the extent to which they did or did not have a relationship with other tribes. The Mi’kmaq do stand out to a degree from other tribes: as some of their DNA tests reminded them, they first encountered the French over 400 years ago.

Campobello Island

There’s a U.S. national park in Canada? Yes, and it’s accessible by bridge from Lubec, Maine! Roosevelt Campobello National Park is jointly funded and staffed by the U.S. and Canada. The visitor’s center holds an afternoon tea – a favorite social event of Eleanor Roosevelt’s – where each day, a different staff member explores unique aspects of the late First Lady.

There’s a cottage that used to be owned by FDR’s parents, which he later visited with Eleanor. Eleanor did not permit phone lines to be installed to disturb the bucolic nature, so as President, FDR had to make and take calls on a Navy ship anchored in the bay. It was here that FDR was first diagnosed with polio.

(An interesting factoid: FDR, Jr. was born here, so he could never have been President! Surely Eleanor, the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt, must have realized the consequence of this.)

Next door at the Prince Cottage is the Prince Café. Sit on the back porch with a water view for a light breakfast or lunch. They accept U.S. and Canadian dollars.

The Porch at Friar’s Bay Inn is the hangout for locals. Plan your evening meals ahead of time, because they only serve dinner certain times of the year and on certain nights. Plus, you lose an hour crossing over from Maine to Atlantic time. They serve locally sourced comfort food, healthy smoothies made to order and coffee drinks. You can also buy local crafts and musicians’ CDs.

The Whale Watch Motel isn’t fancy, but the rooms are spacious, one with a Barcalounger, mini fridge and microwave, a back deck and WiFi. The grounds have games, grills and firepits. The island has a small grocery/liquor store.

Video:

Moose crossing Miramichi River in New Brunswick

Two moose crossing the Miramichi River freaked out at me.

Sponsored
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