Exploring Kahnawá:ke, an Indigenous community near Montréal

Marisela Amador

Marisela Amador

This article was updated on July 3, 2023.

Nothing beats actually visiting an Indigenous community to truly experience its culture. Luckily, the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) community at Kahnawá:ke (On the Rapids) is located on Montréal’s South Shore, a short 25-minute drive from the city’s downtown core.

Kahnawá:ke is one of eight territories that make up the Mohawk Nation. The community is also a founding nation of the Haudenosaunee (People of the Longhouse), commonly referred to as Iroquois. The Haudenosaunee Confederacy is comprised of six other sovereign nations, including the Seneca, Tuscarora, Cayuga, Onondaga, and Oneida Nations. Historians recognize the Kanien’kehá:ka Nation as a steward of Tiohtià:ke (Montréal). Moreover, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy has strong historical and archeological ties to the area. The community of Kahnawá:ke has a vibrant culture and rich history that attracts many visitors from around the world.


Here is a list of destinations that are musts to explore in Kahnawá:ke

Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow wow

The 32nd annual Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow wow will be held on July 8 and 9, and visitors can expect an array of fun and exciting activities for everyone! Over 75 Indigenous craft booths and 25 food vendors (an Indian taco, anyone?) will be at the gathering. Additionally, festivities will start early this year with a Friday Night Social on July 7 that will include a smoke dance competition with over $40,000 in prize money. Gates open at 9 a.m., and tickets can be purchased online through the powwow website or on kahnawaketourism.com and in person.

Every year, thousands of people attend this highly anticipated gathering of different nations to celebrate Indigenous music, dance, food and arts and crafts. Since 1991, the pow wow has taken place on Tekakwitha Island on the closest weekend to July 11 in commemoration of the Oka Crisis that occurred during the summer of 1990 and lasted 78 days. The event promotes friendship and sharing between Kahnawake, its neighbours and, of course, visitors from all parts of the world.



Church and Shrine of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha

The shrine of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha is located at the Saint Francis Xavier Mission Catholic Church. ‘Lily of the Mohawks’, as Kateri was known, was a young Mohawk woman who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2012. The saint’s tomb is found to the right of the main altar and is open for mass every Sunday. Visitors can also check out the Saint Kateri Interpretive Centre, a museum based on the life and afterlife of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha and is located next door to the mission. Tours are available Monday to Thursday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and can be booked on kahnawaketourism.com.

Kahnawá:ke Tourism is also offering a one-hour walking tour of Kahnawá:ke’s historic village where visitors can explore the community’s picturesque main sties and attractions. 


Kanien’kehá:ka Onkwawén:na Raotitiohkwa Language and Cultural Center

Inaugurated in 1978, the Language and Cultural Center was built to preserve and revitalize Kahnawá:ke’s unique cultural heritage. The centre has now embarked on its next phase with the construction of a multimillion-dollar state-of-the-art multi-purpose building and auditorium that will house a museum, the Turtle Island Theatre Company and a Tourism Visitors Centre that will serve as a community hub.

In the meantime, the centre has a temporary location in the community where visitors will be delighted by the many Kanien’kéha (Mohawk language) and English books from its considerable library.

The centre also has a permanent exhibit in its museum that explores the rich culture and history of the Mohawks, beginning with the foundation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy to the 1990 Oka Crisis.

The cultural center also has an extensive photo archive of the community and its people going back almost a century, while the museum has a number of art exhibitions that feature the work of local and non-local Indigenous artists. Guided tours of the centre and its different attractions can be booked on kahnawaketourism.com.

During the month of July, Kahnawá:ke Tourism will host the 8th annual Strawberry Food Fest, which will culminate with a special event on July 22, where visitors and locals alike will be able to enjoy strawberry-themed creations from local restaurants and vendors. The festival was ordinally created to promote traditional food and culture and coincides with the Mohawk cycle of ceremonies.

Marisela Amador

Marisela Amador

Marisela Amador is a reporter who works in the Kanien’kehá:ka community of Kahnawà:ke. When she’s not reporting the news, she is out and about in her favourite city in the world, Montréal. Of Latin-American descent, she enjoys good food and drinks, art and culture and spending time with friends.

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