On our travel day to PEI, we’d been up at 4 am for a 2 hour, 7 am flight from Hamilton to Moncton, then stood in line at the airport for a car rental, and finally driven a couple of hours to get to Summerside. As a result, we were looking for something low energy to do the day after the day of.
We began with a drive from Summerside to the Mi’kmaq (pronounced Migmaw) Cultural Center on Lennox Island. When the British initially colonized PEI, they handed over large parcels of land to absentee landlord gentry, leaving the Indigenous people quite literally out in the cold. Eventually, the British let the Mi’kmaq settle on Lennox Island, where they struggled to make a living. Their children were sent to residential school off Island in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Times were tough.
Today, though, the Lennox Island Mi’kmaq enjoy a diverse economy, send their children to a new school in the community, and maintain a small but interesting cultural centre, staffed by local youth. When we arrived, a group of high school kids were participating in a talking circle outside around a smoldering fire, so we headed into the cultural centre. A young man told us a little shyly that he could give us a tour, apologizing for using a cheat sheet since he was new to his role.
Some of the most interesting stories he told were how historic events had impacted his family. His great grandparents had vigorously opposed sending his grandfather to residential school. His family had gradually lost the Mi’kmaq language – his grandparents were fluent, his mom understood but didn’t speak it, and he only knew a few words and phrases.
He also shared an interesting twist in the complex interaction between the Catholic Church and traditional Indigenous beliefs and practices. The Catholic Church refuses to fund the Lennox Island church because the Nation uses it for gatherings besides those associated with the Catholic faith. “Never mind,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. “We raise funds that more than cover our costs!”
After our tour, we headed off to Thunder Cove Beach, a ” locals only” destination on the north shore shared with us by Mary Anne, our b and b owner in Summerside. We’d never have found it without her recommendation: there is no official parking lot or other facilities, just cars lining a red dirt road and families carrying floaties and coolers up and over the sand dunes to the beach below.
One of the coolest things about this beach are the sandstone cliffs and caves. Peek inside the sea-carved hollows and you never know what interesting things you’ll find.
Next post: The Greenwich sand dunes