Manitoulin Island

Manitoulin Island is an island in Lake Huron, located within the borders of the Canadian province of Ontario, in the bioregion known as Laurentia. With an area of 2,766 km2 (1,068 sq mi), it is the world's largest lake island, large enough to have over 100 lakes. In addition to the historic Anishinaabe and European settlement of the island, archaeological discoveries at Sheguiandah have demonstrated Paleo-Indian and Archaic cultures dating from 10,000 BC to 2,000 BC.

The current name of the island is the English version, via French, of the Ottawa or Ojibwe name Manidoowaaling (ᒪᓂᑝᐙᓕᓐᒃ), which means "cave of the spirit." It was named for an underwater cave where a powerful spirit is said to live. By the 19th century, the Odawa "l" was pronounced as "n". The same word with a newer pronunciation is used for the town Manitowaning (19th-century Odawa "Manidoowaaning"), which is located on Manitoulin Island near the underwater cave where legend has it that the spirit dwells. The modern Odawa name for Manitoulin Island is Mnidoo Mnis, meaning "Spirit Island."

Manitoulin Island contains several lakes of its own. In order of size, its three most prominent lakes are Lake Manitou, Lake Kagawong and Lake Mindemoya. These three lakes have islands within them, the largest of these being Lake Mindemoya's 33-hectare (82-acre) Treasure Island, located in the centre of Mindemoya.

The island is the site of the administrative office of the band government of the Sheshegwaning First Nation.

Manitoulin means spirit island in Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe language). The island is considered sacred by the Native Anishinaabe people, who identify as the "People of the Three Fires." This loose confederation comprises the Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi tribes.

The North Channel was part of the route used by the French colonial voyageurs and coureurs des bois to reach Lake Superior. The first known European to settle on the island was Father Joseph Poncet, a French Jesuit, who set up a mission near Wiikwemkoong in 1648. The Jesuits called the island "Isle de Ste-Marie".

In addition, the Five Nations of the Iroquois began raiding the island and area to control the fur trade with the French. As part of the Beaver Wars, the Iroquois drove the Anishinaabe people from the island by 1650. According to Anishinaabe oral tradition, to purify the island from disease, the people burned their settlements as they left. The island was primarily uninhabited for nearly 150 years.

Native people (Odawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi) began to return to the island following the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. They ceded the island to the British Crown in 1836; the government set aside the land as a refuge for Natives. In 1838, Jean-Baptiste Proulx re-established a Roman Catholic mission. The Jesuits took over the mission in 1845.

Year-round motor-vehicle access to the island is available via the one-lane Little Current Swing Bridge, which crosses the North Channel at Little Current. From late May to early October, a daily passenger-vehicle ferry, the MS Chi-Cheemaun (Ojibwe for "Big Canoe"), travels between Tobermory on the tip of the Bruce Peninsula and South Baymouth. Winter ice prevents ferry service during that season. There are two airports on the island. Gore Bay-Manitoulin Airport and Manitoulin East Municipal Airport, which opened in 1988. Both allow small planes access to the island and Border Patrol clearance.