Exploring Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory
Written and Photographed by Jen Cormier
Growing up near the Bay of Quinte, there were many times when I travelled by Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, either passing it along the highway or going through it on the way to nearby summer adventures. It had always sparked my curiosity, so I finally decided to stop and explore this unique part of eastern Ontario. I discovered that it can be well worth getting off of the main roads and exploring unknown (to me) parts of the province. The culture, art and natural attractions made this a truly special trip, and a meaningful opportunity to learn about the Kenhtè:ke Kanyen’kehá:ka, which means Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte in the Mohawk language.
If you are looking for a place to unplug from the hustle of everyday life, Lil Crow Cabin fits the bill. The stunning panoramic views, the kayaks for paddling the bay, and the outdoor hot tub for an evening spent stargazing are all a part of the experience. The sheer beauty of this place alone will put you in a relaxed frame of mind. Making this spot truly unique are the special touches added by owners Kimberly and David Maracle. You’ll want to spend some time admiring the murals outside the cabin and the curated collection of Indigenous art inside. David himself is a world- renowned artist, and some of the collection is his own work.
We made great use of the kayaks at the cabin; you can launch into the bay right from the property, explore the marshes and islands just off the shore, then time your return to watch the sun set over the water. We took a paddle on a brisk October day, and the stunning colours during the golden hour made the ex- perience even more glorious—it felt like the middle of summer. The Lil Crow property is expanding, too. In addition to the Fox Pod Den—which we stayed in—there is also the main cabin (with a hot tub and gazebo), the Crow Nest Bunkie (a bedroom glamping unit with gazebo) and the Beaver Pod Den (a second glamping unit, complete with a cozy fireplace). Sorry, kiddos, all units are adults only.
During my stay, I learned about a number of local artisans who are carrying on Mohawk traditions and culture through their art. One such artist is Rebecca Maracle—a fourth-generation Mohawk feathersmith. Using plumage from a variety of birds, her designs tell stories of spirituality and emotion. If you are looking for a dream catcher that is truly hand crafted by a local artist, this is the place to go.
We made an appointment at Millside Ceramics, the home studio of artist Marleen Murphy, to check out her collection. Pieces that caught my eye included friendship circles, smudge bowls and medicine wheels, all of which are rooted in traditional teachings. Marleen’s work is such a special part of Canadian storytelling that it was chosen to represent Canada at the 2010Olympics in Vancouver; you’ll definitely want to take home a piece from her collection yourself. I loved her assortment of holiday ornaments, perfect for my own tree and as great gifts with a special story behind them.
Afterwards, we made our way to Christ Church, Her Majesty’s Chapel Royal of the Mohawk, an impressive church with much historical significance. Built by the Mohawks over 170 years ago, it is one of only six Chapels Royal outside the United Kingdom, and one of two in Canada. I’d recommend also taking a respectful walk through the church graveyard, which is the resting place of Dr. Oronhyatekha, one of the earliest academically accredited Indigenous medical doctors in Canada. If you love history, stop and read theplaque about his life—it’s fascinating.
Finally we ventured to Native Renaissance, a gift shop, art gallery and café all under one roof. The Native Art Gallery showcases a wide variety of work by well-known Indigenous artists, and the gift shop carries everything from handmade moccasins to children’s books and toys. The gift options here are excellent if you have little ones to shop for. Upstairs you’ll find the Gallery Café, where you can enjoy the popular daily quiches and traditional fare like corn soup and cornbread.
The Territory is taking extra care with safety protocols, ensuring health is a top priority for the community. It’s best to get in touch with the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte Administration office before planning your visit.
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