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Cape Breton Museums Network
The Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre

On the shores of the Bras d'Or Lake, Cape Breton Island

WCHC logo.jpg

The petroglyph reads: Ta'n Lnu Tele'k (The Way a Mi'kmaq Lives)

The First Nation community of Wagmatcook
lies 10 miles west of Baddeck,
along the shores of the famous Bras d'Or Lake.
It has approximately 600 people.

The Wagmatcook Centre
(inaugurated in June 2001),
the first of its kind on a First Nation Reserve,
offers an interpretive learning experience and welcomes you to experience Mi'kmaq culture.

WCHC exterior.jpg

Areas of interest:

Cultural history, ethnology, religion, traditional medicine, genealogy, history, technology, trades, hunting and fishing, transportation

Surface area:

Building: 28,700 sq. ft; Museum: 1,576 sq. ft.

eagle_stained glass.jpg

In the main foyer of the Centre, a stained glass window with a flying eagle.

Description, purpose:

Dedicated to learning and reviving the Mi'kmaq culture in the First Nation community of Wagmatcook and beyond.
An excursion through time. Mi'kmaq guides interprete their culture and traditions, and give a glimpse into the lives of their people, through the tales of the centuries.

Highlights of the Centre:

Noteworthy are the stained glass work (picture above), the Mi'kmaq murals by Arlene Christmas (Dozay) and, in the Great Hall, the vaulted ceiling.


Above, a mural by Arlene Christmas (Doray) depicting a grandmother telling her grandchild a story. In the background, a glimpse of the Museum (canoe; teepee; petroglyphs).

The Great Hall (6500 sq. ft., overlooking the Bras d'Or Lake) is used for conferences and social gatherings. It also features entertainment such as drumming, dancing and storytelling.

Great Hall.jpg

To see and do at the Centre:

* tour the Museum and interpretive exhibits (guides available), and see how the Mi'kmaq lived throughout the centuries;

* browse through the craft shop and view craft demonstrations by local artisans;

* experience Mi'kmaq culture through drumming, dancing and story-telling;

* sample traditional Mi'kmaq foods at the Clean Wave Restaurant (eel stew, poached salmon, roasted or stewed venison --i.e. rabbit, deer, moose --; four-cent cake, bannock and lis'knikn);

* shop at the enterprises located in the Centre;

* enroll in a course of Mi'kmaq dancing, drumming and language.

mural_history makers.jpg

Another mural, called "History Makers", can be seen in the Clean Wave Restaurant.

Other interesting facts:

The history of the Wagmatcook people dates back centuries.
However, the reservation was not officially established until May 2, 1834 by his Excellency Sir Peregrine Maitland. Maitland has been referred to as a gentleman who did not accede to the wishes of the Scottish settlers to remove the Natives from the mouth of the West-Side Middle River.

The operation of the Centre is part of Wagmatcook Band Council's 5-year development strategy. Future plans for the Centre include featuring travelling exhibits (medicinal and religious themes) and an interpretive village offering outdoor activities and marine opportunities.

The Smithsonian Institute has some 4,000 artifacts from this First Nation community.

Workshops / Educational Programs:

Demonstrations on how crafts are produced, and their significance (i.e. that of the Dream Catcher legend).

Tradtional storytelling of the Mi'kmaq culture, heritage, customs, beliefs and humor.

Daily multicultural entertainment ~ feel our culture come alive in Mi'kmaq drumming, dancing and story-telling by spiritual leaders.


Links to sites about: government, people, economy, culture, language, etc.

Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq, an organization that was formed in 1986 by the band councils of six mainland Nova Scotia First Nations

The Mi'kmaq Portraits Collection of the Nova Scotia Museum

Mi'kmaq Culture (Memorial University of Nfld)

The Native Fishery (the Mi'kmaq in PEI)

Mi'kmaq Trail

Storytelling - The Art of Knowledge - Mi'kmaq

Mi'kmaq Online Talking Dictionary Project (English/Mi'kmaq)

Some Mi'kmaw Words (with their pronunciation)

Mi'kmak Language (Indian and Northern Affairs Canada)

Portals on Aboriginal Culture in Canada and the rest of North America:

The collections:

Photos of Mikmaw people, their activities (catching and smoking salmon, making baskets, hunting for caribou, moose, bear and other animals). Recollections and voices of the elders. Narratives and photographs, hieroglyphics and petroglyphs, instruments and ageless crafts hold many stories.

Real-size wigwam at the centre of the museum; various objects (ash splints, furs, baskets, bear skin, etc.) evoking everyday life.

Browse through century-old tools and shelters
and experience the importance of the seasons
to the Mi'kmaq people.


Storytelling by Martha Isadore, community elder,
inside the teepee.

The site is home to a permanent heritage exhibit
and display of fine Mi'kmaq artifacts,
"Let Us Remember The Old Mi'kmaq"

Mikwitemanej Mikmanaqi'k:
Let Us Remember the Old Mi'kmaq


The Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archaeology and The Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq in Truro, Nova Scotia, co-produced this exhibition of photographs taken in Mi'kmaw communities in 1930-31 by anthropologist Frederick Johnson. The images, taken in seven communities in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, portray many aspects of community life, from people fishing and making baskets to the
annual celebration of St. Anne's Day.

Over two years, exhibition curators met with more that 50 Mi'kmaw elders throughout Nova Scotia to discuss these images. They drew on the memories of these and other present-day Mi'kmaw people, as well as historical information, to provide context for the images within 20th century Mi'kmaw experience.

The exhibition examines Mi'kmaw life in 1930-31, as well as changes brought about by Canadian Indian policy
instituted after 1930.

Some symbols of the Mi'kmaq culture:

* The Eagle:
the message coming from Niskam, the Great Spirit.
* The Turtle:
the unspoken - patience, active listening.
* The Great Horned Serpent:
of the supernatural race, he lives in lakes; the horn is the source of his power.
* The Peace Pipe:
peace amongst nations, families and individuals.
* The Medicine Wheel:
the faith and wisdom of the First Nation communities.

Staff Members:

Madeleine Isadore, Centre Manager;
Pauline Isadore, Cultural Programmer

Murdena Marshall, B.Ed., Ed. M., Cultural Consultant (customs, traditions, language)

The Board of Directors for the Centre:
Chief Mary Louise Bernard, Chair; Nancy Bernard, Tracey Boutilier, Sylvia Googoo, Martha Isadore, Howard Jeddore, Nancy MacDonald, Jim Morro.


The book "Let Us Remember the Old Mi'kmaq", by the Confederacy of Mainland Mi'kmaq and the Robert S. Peabody Museum of Archeology

For sale
at the Centre's Craft Shop
(featuring Mi'kmaq items,
most of which are made locally):

Baskets, beadwork (bookmarkers, necklaces, etc.), earrings, bracelets and hair pins; quill-work,
leather goods (full Mi'kmaq regalia, mocassins, medicine pouches, etc.);
wooden flowers; dream catchers;
original paintings and artwork; cards and postcards, candles;
music CDs (Denny Family, Eagle Feather, Sarah Michael, George Paul, etc.);
and maple syrup.

Some of the books available:


"Micmac Medicines", by Laurie Lacey
"We Are the Dreamers. Recent and Early Poetry", by Rita Joe
"We Were not Savages", by Daniel N. Paul
"Glooscap Legends", by Stanley T. Spicer

Related museums elsewhere in North America:


Other Mi'kmaq communities in Cape Breton:

Contact information:

The Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre

P.O. Box 30029
Wagmatcook, Nova Scotia, CANADA B0E 3N0

(902) 295-2999 or 295-1627
Fax (902) 295-2769

More practical information:

Year-round, 7 days a week
9:00 am to 9:00 pm

$2.00 admission fee

Ample parking area. Washrooms, craft shop, restaurant right in the Centre.


CBMN March 2002