The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre, also known as the Manitou Mounds, opened for the 2006 season more than two weeks ago, but it was the 36th-annual fish fry that brought hundreds of people to its gates.
The event, which was held Friday, saw 489 pounds of walleye cooked up and there also was smoked sturgeon available, noted organizer Pam Kaun.
“It’s hard to tell how many people we’ve had,” she said, noting in past years they’ve fed between 600-700 visitors. “I don’t think we got that many this year.”
There was plenty of food and people could eat at no charge, as well as explore the grounds and visitors’ centre.
Rainy River First Nations Chief Jim Leonard indicated the event costs about $20,000 and is funded by the band.
“It’s about being a good neighbour and creating partnerships,” he explained.
While many people came out for the fish fry, Chief Leonard conceded they haven’t had as many visitors to the historical centre as they would like.
“It’s partially our fault,” he remarked. “We don’t know anything about marketing and we’re going to have to learn to do it better.”
He noted the historical centre is not funded by any government grants—the band’s own money is injected into it.
The admission fee ($10 for an adult) helps with the costs.
The area was designated as a site of national historic significance back in 1970, but the centre wasn’t built until 1995.
“[It was] built to share with the world,” Chief Leonard said. “A way to thank the people of the district for being our neighbours.”
The mounds are one of the most significant centres of early habitation and ceremonial burial in Canada, and they have deep cultural and spiritual meaning to indigenous people.
People gathered there to trade, share, and celebrate—and the history that remains through artifacts reflects the diverse trading network.
“There is a richness of native culture and there is a strong diversity of everything here,” Chief Leonard explained. “It is a gathering place for thousands of native people.
“The plant life here is like nowhere else,” he added, citing plants from as far away as Florida and Tennessee have been found in the area.
He said scientists, botanists, and other people come from all over the globe to visit the beautiful, spiritual spot.
There are outdoor demonstrations, the nature and historic trail network, as well as the 20 burial mounds to visit, which are more than 2,000 years old.
Guests also can check out artifacts, galleries, a gift shop, and restaurant.
“The guided tours demonstrate some of the things native people did,” Chief Leonard noted. “People can also tour the burial mounds and the restaurant provides native traditional food.”
In addition, the centre features a 4,000-gallon aquarium holding several large sturgeon.
Chief Leonard said sturgeons are widely found in the Rainy River on which the historical area is located. In fact, Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung means “Place of the Long Rapids.”
“And they were raised artificially from eggs,” he said about the significance of the fish.
“You always see something different here and you can learn something new,” he remarked.
Besides the annual fish fry, Chief Leonard noted special events often are held periodically at the historical centre, such as aboriginal games and science camps for children.
“Other groups often come through and join us, too,” he added.
The Kay-Nah-Chi-Wah-Nung Historical Centre is open Wednesday-Sunday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. until October. Reservations are not required.
For more information, call 483-1163.