Chi-Cheemaun is not only a ferry. It is the Big Canoe (as it means in Obijwe language) that connects Tobermory in Bruce Peninsula with South Baymouth on Manitoulin Island, but also connects people, stories and spirits.
Guided by the Great Spirit (Manitou – the Great Spirit of the Native Aboriginal Canadians), my adventure to the Spirit Island (translation of Manitoulin in Ojibwe language) actually started when we decided to have a road trip around Huron Lake. I’ve heard about Great Lakes since I was little, when I was fascinated by the historical fiction books I read about Indians, who were depicted as brave warriors, always in fight with someone, or being busy by themselves with hunting, traveling, or various native ceremonies.
Never truly hearing details about these places, I started learning while waiting on the long line to board the ferry. The attendant checking the reservations confirmed that if you don’t have a reservation online, you have very little chance to get a spot on the ferry in the summer time, even though the ferry runs 4 times daily and has a capacity of 143 vehicles.
The 2 hour cruise is not only for the ones traveling by car, but also for the ones who enjoy the outdoors, dinners, sunsets, or stargazing. Reclining on one of the outside chairs, one can daydream while enjoying the fresh air or the bright colours of the skies and waters.
Manitoulin Island is the world largest freshwater island, with more than a hundred inland lakes. It is considered by natives The Heart and Spirit of the Great Lakes of Canada.
Home to three distinct cultures – First Nations, Francophone and Anglophone – the region has a diverse culture and a rich history. The island itself is considered sacred by the Native Anishinaabe people, who identify as the “People of the Three Fires” (Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi tribes).
From 1836 to 1862, a considerable portion of Manitoulin Island was set aside as the “Manitoulin Island Indian Reserve”. When more reserves were intended to be created in 1862 and the ‘Manitoulin Treaty’ was signed by all, the natives of Wikwemikong did not sign the treaty, leaving Wikwemikong the only unceded Indian Reserve in Canada, which means that it has not “relinquished title to its land to the government by any treaty or otherwise.”
Holy Cross Mission in Wikwemikong is the oldest Catholic Church in Northern Ontario, the first European Jesuit Fr Joseph Poncet came in 1648. Construction of the Mission began in 1849 and were officially dedicated on July 25th, 1852. All the mason work during construction was done by Anishinaabe labour.
Driving toward North on Hwy 6, we passed through Little Current. Little Current Swing Bridge is the only road to link Manitoulin Island from mid-October to early May when the ferry MS Chi-Cheemaun is not in operation to carry passengers from the Bruce Peninsula. The bridge stays in the closed position most of the time, so that road vehicles can use it except for the first fifteen minutes of each daylight hour during the spring, summer and fall when it opens to permit marine traffic to pass. The bridge has been designated an Ontario Heritage site.
A paradise for lighthouse lovers, Manitoulin Island as well as all the northern lands offer a multitude of lighthouses I couldn’t imagine. I’m sure that at one point I will plan myself a lighthouse tour to see all of these historical lighthouses, in the meantime I will only show you the few that were along our way to our next stop Sault Ste Marie.