An Indigenous experiential learning attraction has opened in west-end Ottawa with a sold-out party.

The Tagwàgi Festival, which ran from Oct. 16-24, was the first of what organizers expect will be many experiences at the National Capital Commission’s Mādahòkì Farm on West Hunt Club Road.

The former Lone Star Ranch was leased to Indigenous Experiences, the producers of the annual Summer Solstice Indigenous Festival, on Oct. 1. Indigenous Experiences owner Trina Simard said the goal in acquiring the property was to “build an interest in agri-tourism, farm-to-table culinary experiences and authentic cultural experiences from an indigenous perspective.”

Indigenous Experiences “has more than 25 years of experience programming Indigenous entertainment and attractions to create lasting memories for participants young and old,” the NCC said in announcing its new tenant at Mādahòkì Farm.

“The Mādahòkì Farm project is a tangible way to help ensure that Algonquin Anishinabeg heritage continues to be a defining element of the National Capital Region experience,” said NCC chief executive Tobi Nussbaum.

Simard expects to host a number of events at the farm in the coming years to allow the public an opportunity to acquire a better understanding of Indigenous culture.

Capital Current attended the festival to capture all the excitement.

Colourful tents are scattered across the Mādahòkì Farm property. Dozens of people are milling about looking at what the vendors have brought.
The former Lone Star Ranch has been bought and converted into Mādahòkì Farm, an Indigenous experiential learning site. From Oct. 16-24 the farm hosted the Tagwàgi (autumn) Festival. [Photo © Abigael Lynch]

Attractions included meeting the endangered Ojibwe Spirit Horses, walking through an outdoor market with local Indigenous artisans and farmers, watching a traditional pow wow dance, listening to traditional story-telling, leaving a message of reconciliation on the legacy trail and enjoying a traditional smokehouse demonstration. A food truck was on site selling Indigenous smoked fish and other meats for guests to discover culinary traditions.

Reconciliation rock station. Rocks were painted orange and allowed guests the opportunity to write their own messages. A young girl is lying in the grass writing her own message on the rock in sharpie while her mother and father watch.
While her parents watched, a young girl lies in the grass writing a message on an orange rock at the reconciliation rock station. [Photo © Abigael Lynch]
One of the orange reconciliation rocks is pictured in the grass near a small tree with the words 'our children matter' in black.
One of many rocks painted orange in solidarity with the reconciliation movement. Visitors to the festival had the opportunity to write on the painted rocks and place them along the legacy trail on the farm. [Photo © Abigael Lynch]

A great deal of visitor attention was focused on the legacy trail and reconciliation rock station. The reconciliation rock station allows visitors to write a message on an orange rock and leave it along a nearby trail for other visitors to read. When asked what reconciliation meant to her, Simard said “reconciliation means taking the opportunity to learn Canada’s true history.”

Executive Director and owner of Indigenous Experiences, Trina Simmard is pictured smiling beside a large bunch of corn husks.
Trina Simard, owner of Indigenous Experiences and executive director of the Tagwàgi Festival stands on the NCC-owned grounds of the old Lone Star Ranch, which is being turned into a site where visitors can learn about Indigenous culture. [Photo © Abigael Lynch]
Celebration stage is pictured with dozens of people milling about. Celebration stage is where the pow wow dance and story telling took place.
Celebration Stage was a central location for the festival as it hosted the traditional thanksgiving address, the story of the three sisters and a pow wow dance. [Photo © Abigael Lynch]
An indigenous woman performing a traditional hoop dance on the Celebration Stage.[Photo © Abigael Lynch]
Chef Paul Owl is pictured brewing a traditional ten ingredient tea for festival goers to enjoy. He is holding a mesh steeping bag with the tea ingredients, which was just removed from the boiling water.
Chef Paul Owl steeping his traditional 10-ingredient tea for festival-goers to enjoy. The ingredients include cedar bough, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and more. [Photo © Abigael Lynch]
Spirit horse caretaker and artist Rhonda Snow is talking with festival attendees about her spirit horse herd and showing her paintings to visitors at her vibrant orange tent.
Spirit Horse caretaker and Indigenous artist Rhonda Snow talks about her artwork and the history of the Ojibwe Spirit Horses in Canada. [Photo © Abigael Lynch]

Four rare Ojibwe Spirit Horses proved to be a big draw at the farm during the festival. The breed was nearly driven to extinction in the 1970s. In a recent article, Simard explained the importance of the Spirit Horses to the Indigenous community.

“Traditionally these horses lived freely alongside Indigenous communities. (They were) service animals and companions. Following persecution by settlers and the introduction of the combustion engine, their use and numbers dwindled down to just four mares that were rescued and became the new foundation stock for the breed. While great efforts have been made by breeders and owners of these fascinating horses, their numbers have yet to recover to the thousands that once roamed Canada.”

The four horses are under the care of Indigenous artist Rhonda Snow at Mādahòkì Farm.

Two young children feed one of the spirit horses,Black Bear (Makwa), some hay through the metal fence of the horse paddock.
Two children feed some hay to one of the spirit horses, Black Bear (Makwa), through the bars of his paddock at Mādahòkì Farm in Ottawa. [Photo © Abigael Lynch]
One of the spirit horses, Eagle (Migzi), trots through the grass of his paddock. Eagle is a brownish-yellow colour with a brown mane and tail, and a white spot on his forehead.
Another of the spirit horses, Eagle (Migzi), trots around the paddock at Mādahòkì Farm in Ottawa.[Photo © Abigael Lynch]