Long before French explorer Samuel de Champlain arrived in what is now Ottawa, the region was known to different Indigenous communities. These nations – Huron, Algonquin, Cree and Ojibwe to name a few – were the region’s first residents, and taught early settlers how to navigate the Ottawa River and how to create the sugary delicacy that is maple syrup from maple sap. The important stories of these Indigenous cultures are told in today’s Ottawa through museums, galleries, monuments and other cultural attractions – as well as a guided walking tour, an authentic pow wow, and a voyageur canoe experience. Discover some of the many ways to connect with Indigenous cultures in Ottawa.
Indigenous Experiences is now located behind the Canadian Museum of History, near a site once used by Indigenous peoples as a trading post, and as a place of friendship and celebration. From May through October, groups can book guided tours of a reconstructed village, along with interactive Pow Wow dance performances, craft and music workshops, and traditional storytelling and songs alongside the Ottawa River.
CANADIAN MUSEUM OF NATURE
The Canada Goose Arctic Gallery is the world’s largest exhibit experience about Canada’s Arctic. This Ontario Signature Experience presents the Arctic’s peoples, landscapes, and plants and animals in the thematic areas of climate, geography, sustainability and ecosystems. The Beyond Ice multimedia experience, using real ice, introduces the images and sounds of the people of the North, the majestic polar bear and other animals, and stunning animation produced by Inuit artists. The Northern Voices Gallery features changing exhibitions that are curated by a Northern community to share Indigenous peoples’ perspectives.
CANADIAN MUSEUM OF HISTORY
Explore the history, culture and heritage of Canada’s Indigenous Peoples at the Canadian Museum of History – Canada’s premier museum of human history, located in the heart of the National Capital Region. The Museum has three exhibitions exploring Canada’s Indigenous legacy. The stunning Grand Hall focuses on Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Coast. The First Peoples Hall celebrates the history, diversity, creativity and resourcefulness of First Nations, Inuit and Métis People. And in the new Canadian History Hall, Indigenous stories are integral to a national narrative spanning 15,000 years. The Hall’s three galleries serve as reminders that Indigenous Peoples have lived on this land for thousands of years – challenging, changing and helping to build the country we know today.
NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA
Canadian and Indigenous Galleries
See the story of art in Canada. A Canadian Signature Experience, the National Collection features indigenous masterpieces by Daphne Odjig and Norval Morrisseau as well as themes of magnetic north, inhabited landscapes, and the emergence of Inuit art: a true testament to the rich and multifaceted Canadian experience. Through special exhibitions and new acquisitions, the Gallery supports contemporary Indigenous artists in exploring present current and pressing issues of our time, challenging ideas about identity and history, and creating relationships that inform and reform our understanding of our place in the world.
Omega Park is a wildlife park where you live the experience of wild Canadian nature. It is an opportunity to discover the fauna, history, heritage and the different cultures of our First Nations. The First Nations pathway is unique in America: all 11 First Nations of Québec are represented, each with a sculpted totem, along a one-kilometre pathway and is dedicated to all First Nations.
National Aboriginal Veterans Monument
Located in Confederation Park across from the Lord Elgin Hotel, this monument honours the contributions of Aboriginal Canadians in war and peacekeeping operations.
Focussing on Canada’s military history, just east of the National War Memorial in Ottawa’s downtown core, you’ll find the Valiants Memorial. This monument pays tribute to several Canadians in our nation’s history, including Thayendanegea, who was also known as Joseph Brant.
Indigenous Walks offers a walk and talk through downtown Ottawa focusing on social, political and cultural issues while exploring monuments, landscape, architecture and art through an Indigenous perspective. There are a variety of walks available including the Basic Tour, Parliament Hill Tour, Indigenous Women’s Tour and the Very Scary Tour. Each tour varies depending on the assigned tour guide, who provide perspectives based on his or her respective experiences.
WABANO CENTRE FOR ABORIGINAL HEALTH
The Wabano Centre’s culture program offers services to individuals, families and groups incorporating Aboriginal beliefs, values and traditions that promote holistic healing. Visit their website for special events.
SUMMER SOLSTICE FESTIVAL
June 21 marks a significant time when Aboriginal People across Canada traditionally gather and celebrate the Summer Solstice. In 1996, the day was officially declared National Aboriginal Day and in 2009, the month of June was officially declared National Aboriginal History Month, to recognize the enormous contributions that First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples have made to Canada. Check out the festival program online.
ODAWA POW WOW
Each year near the end of May, the Odawa Pow Wow offers an Aboriginal dance and singing competition as well as an Aboriginal arts and crafts market. This is also a great place to sample Aboriginal cuisine!
The Chaudière or Akikodjiwan Falls, are a set of cascades and waterfalls in the centre of the Ottawa-Gatineau metropolitan area. Akikodjiwan is the name given to the falls by the Anishinaabe peoples that have lived and gathered at this sacred meeting place for centuries. EnergyOttawa is currently expanding the Chaudière Falls to produce clean, renewable energy in an environmentally responsible way. For the first time in more than 100 years, Chaudière Falls will be open to the public to enjoy and serve as a place of recognition and celebration of Canada’s First Nations.