Kenora’s cultural roots are a rich tapestry of old world traditions and modern Canadian multiculturalism. People have been living on the Lake of the Woods for thousands of years, and this area served as an important portage on the cross Canada waterway, connecting the Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River. Kenora as we know it today began like many cities in Canada as a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post. The post was small, and built mostly to trade with local indigenous fur traders. As the town grew people came from the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Ukraine, and more. The ancestors of these groups keep their family, spiritual, and cultural traditions alive. From pow-wows to pierogi suppers and everything in between, Kenora is a city that truly revels in its cultural mosaic.
The City of Kenora is home to a number of cultural events and concerts year round. Entering downtown from the west, one is greeted with a spectacular view of the Whitecap Pavilion situated on the beautiful downtown harbourfront. In the summer months the Whitecap Pavilion is home to concerts, festivals, and other community events, and in the winter is turned into a giant free outdoor skating rink!
In addition to the bustling performance schedule, the Whitecap Pavilion also hosts the Matiowski Farmers’ Market on Wednesday mornings in the summer. With over 100 vendors selling fresh food, goods, and other expertly made handicrafts the market is a destination for people across Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba.
Kenora is home to the award winning Lake of the Woods Museum. The collection of the museum spans from pre-history to the present day, including beautiful examples of Anishinabe bead and quillwork, photos and information on the history of Kenora, historic maps, and genealogical information.
Kenora has been an influence to great artists like the Group of Seven’s Frank Johnston, and innovator of the Woodland School of Canadian Art Norval Morriseau. These traditions are carried on through groups like the Lake of the Woods Arts Community (LOWAC), the KACL Community Art Hub, and through festivals like the Kenora District Festival of the Arts.
One of the most recognizable features of Kenora is the statue of Husky the Muskie. The 40 foot tall fish was built as a Canadian centennial project to celebrate Canada and promote environmentalism on Lake of the Woods. Sitting at the northern most point of the Lake of the Woods, Husky serves dutifully as both a town mascot and chair of the welcoming committee. A constant reminder of our stewardship of the Lake of the Woods with his motto – Husky the Muskie says, “Prevent water pollution”.
Some of the earliest artistic renderings in the Lake of the Woods area are in the form of ‘Native Pictographs’. In order for the early native artists to render their craft -given they had no canvas and paints- they resorted to berry juice and sap mixtures as paints and selected rocks and rock formations as their canvas. Of course they left the rest to whatever their imagination could bring forth. Some of these continue to exist today and have helped to shape and influence Nations Peoples paths to the present. Some tribes, not all, hold a belief that their ancestors spirits dwell in various objects. Some of these First Nation tribes feel very strongly about this belief and connect these native pictographs with the spirits of their ancestors. For this reason, native pictographs are often referred to as ‘Spirit Rocks’. These sacred objects are scattered all around Lake of the Woods but mostly found on the shorelines. There are no roads leading to any of these Spirit Rocks and as such are only accessible by boat. We encourage everyone to journey around Lake of the Woods by boat and you will get a glimpse of a number of these ancient paintings.
Location of Spirit Rocks – scattered in and about the Lake of the Woods shoreline.
How to get there – accessible only by boat, there are no roads leading to native pictographs.
Proper Etiquette – if you visit one of the area Spirit Rocks it is customary to leave behind an offering.
What Constitutes and Offering – Any small gesture given with respect such as a small bit of tobacco, a stick of gum, etc.
Heritage Townscape Murals
Long known for its rich history and cultural influences, Kenora has recently put forth funding for a number of cultural arts programs in the community. Among one of the most recognizable is the Public Arts Project in the city’s downtown core area where local artists have painted huge vivid murals on a number of buildings. A total of 21 murals have been completed to date and more are planned for the future.