Handsome and enormously talented, actor Adam Beach is a familiar face on Canadian television and movie screens. Born in Ashern, Manitoba on the Dog Creek First Nations Reserve, he has worked with A-list stars like Nicolas Cage (Windtalkers), Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig (Cowboys & Aliens) and Clint Eastwood (Flags of Our Fathers).
In his latest starring role as Bobby Martin on the CBC series Arctic Air, Beach is spending his time filming in the Northwest Territories. The adventure series centres around the business of running a maverick airline in the booming Arctic.
“I have a strong connection to the north,” he says. “I do speaking engagements to connect with the younger generation. I think it’s important for them to have a sense of pride about their culture and I’m fortunate to be a role model to them.”
It’s not just First Nations youth he’d like inspire about their culture, but travellers, too. “We have such a rich history to share. I hope everyone will have a chance to experience it.” Fortunately, there is a bounty of opportunities. Here are some of his top picks:
Canadian Museum of Civilization (soon to be the Canadian Museum of History), Gatineau
“It’s impossible to walk along the Great Hall and not be awed by the totem poles,” says Beach. In fact, the museum houses the world’s largest indoor collection of totem poles. Each one has special meaning and is rich with symbolic images to tell a story.
Manito Ahbee Festival, Winnipeg
This grand annual celebration (Oct. 31 to Nov. 4, 2012) honours indigenous culture through music, art and dance. Attendees can take in various performances by everyone from traditional hoop dancers to hip hop artists, plus shop for handicrafts at the artisan marketplace.
Spirit Bear Lodge, Klemtu, B.C.
This eco-lodge, operated by the Kitasoo/Xai’xai First Nation, is one of the few places where you can attempt to see the rare spirit bear, a sub-species of the black bear that have white or cream-coloured fur. They play an important part in the oral history of First Nations people.
Grand River Pow Wow, Caledonia, Ont.
For 33 years, the annual celebration, held in July, brings together some of the best Aboriginal dancers and singers in North America to compete for prize money and the title of “Champion of Champions.” Food and crafts are also part of the festive mix.
Sweat Lodge, Burrard Indian Band, North Vancouver, B.C.
“I’m a believer in the therapeutic benefits of a sweat lodge,” he says. There are a number of places around Vancouver where one can participate in this spiritual healing tradition. The Burrard Indian Band welcomes visitors for an incredible body, mind and soul journey. (For details, call 604-929-3454).