Indigenous experiences in Montréal

Culture, arts and heritage The city
  • Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, Resilience - Musée McCord Stewart
  • Indigenous winter market
Marisela Amador

Marisela Amador

Montréal has an abundance of exciting and vibrant activities and events dedicated to promoting the culture and traditions of the First Peoples. Everything from arts and crafts to language and history, the city is brimming with Indigenous experiences just waiting to be explored. Here is a list of not-to-miss experiences in Montréal.

 

Manitushiu-puamuna (Entre les deux mondes), exposition de Sonia Robertson

Culture

As the first Indigenous artist-run centre in Montréal, daphne highlights the work of emerging, mid-career and established Indigenous artists through exhibitions, workshops, residencies and curatorial initiatives. It is also a community space where people can explore contemporary Indigenous art that encourages meaningful exchange between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

The Biennale d’Art Contemporain Autochtone (BACA) is a recurring event that recognizes and supports contemporary Indigenous art and artists, with a fresh theme at every edition. It was recommended as one of the events to attend while you're in Québec by Condé Nast Traveler in "The 24 Best Places to Go in 2024".

These venues are regular participants in the project: La GuildeArt Mûr, the McCord Stewart Museumthe Maison de la Culture de Verdun – Quai 5160, the Musée des beaux-arts de Sherbrooke, the DRAC, the Musée régional de Rimouski, the Stewart Hall Art Gallery and Expression, le centre d’exposition de Saint-Hyacinthe

The Montreal Museum of Fine Art has an important collection of First Nations and Inuit art, and often shows thematic exhibitions showcasing it.

McCord Stewart Museum

Over the last few years, the McCord Stewart Museum has been in the process of indigenization with the goal of increasing the accessibility of the Indigenous Cultures collections to Indigenous communities and the general public. It has a permanent must-see exhibition, Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, ResilienceThe exhibit includes about 100 objects selected from the museum’s Indigenous Cultures collection that were combined with more than 80 compelling stories from 11 First Nations communities to bring to the forefront the still unrecognized knowledge of Indigenous peoples in Quebec and Canada. And, until March 10, 2024, The McCord Stewart presents Wampum: beads of diplomacy, an exhibition that brings together over 40 wampum belts from public and private collections in Québec, Canada and Europe. Wampum are remarkable objects made from shell beads that were exchanged for over two centuries—from the early 17th to the early 19th century—during diplomatic meetings between nations in northeastern America, including European nations.

Located in Old Montréal, the Sacred Fire Productions' cultural space is dedicated to sharing contemporary Aboriginal arts, artists and cultures in Canada. Be sure to check out their online store.

National Indigenous History Month

June is National Indigenous History Month. To celebrate the culture of the First Peoples, a variety of activities have been planned by Land InSights, the folks behind the International First Peoples’ Festival.

For the occasion, Cinémathèque québécoise has been known to plan special programming that explores the heritage of the First peoples.

The Grande Bibliothèque also participates with programming featuring Indigenous musicians, storytellers, filmmakers and creatives.

Montreal First Peoples Festival
Montreal First Peoples Festival
Montreal First Peoples Festival

The International First Peoples’ Festival

Every year in August, the International First Peoples’ Festival offers the best in Indigenous creativity from all over Turtle Island (North America) and the rest of the world. Attendees can expect a variety of dazzling and exciting events, including multiple exhibitions, a selection of short and feature-length films representing Indigenous peoples and live concerts and performances.

First Nations Garden - Montréal Botanical Garden – Space for Life

Natural beauty

The First Nations Garden, located at the heart of the Montréal Botanical Garden, highlights the close bond that Indigenous peoples and the Inuit have always had with the land and mother nature. The garden consists of over 300 different plant species and is the culmination of three years of work. The 2.5-hectare garden first opened in August 2001. 

Mount Royal (or “the Mountain” as it is known to Montrealers) offers three breathtaking views of Montréal from its three summits, one of which was renamed Tiohtià:ke Otsira’kéhne in 2017 to honour Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) heritage and the peak’s use as a First Nations fire beacon. Come for a hike or a drive to enjoy the beautiful views. 

Taste experiences

The Roundhouse Café, the only Indigenous café in Montréal, offers a special blend from Indigenous roaster Moccasin Jo and a selection of delicious Indigenous-inspired fare, including sweet Bannock and Indigenous tacos. The café’s main goal is to promote social diversity and empower Indigenous peoples. 

Moccasin Joe, a specialty and on-demand micro-roaster located in the Kanien’kehá:ka community of Kanesatake, is a great place to pick up fresh, locally made coffee, food and treats. And while you’re in the territory, don’t forget to check out the Skywatcher Alpaca Farm!

Kahnawake

A day trip to Kahnawá:ke

For a truly immersive experience of Indigenous culture, one only has to drive about 30 minutes away from downtown to the Kanien’kehá:ka reserve of Kahnawá:ke. Over the last few years, the community has become a destination offering tours, arts and crafts, a yearly powwow, and of course, amazing food and drinks, all surrounded by beautiful greenery and views of the St. Lawrence River.  

At the Kahnawá:ke Marina, dance to the beat of a different drum at the annual Echoes of a Proud Nation Pow Wow, a vibrant, high-energy celebration of traditional and contemporary Indigenous cultures. This year's pow wow, "Echoes of a proud nation", will feature traditional dancing and drumming, plus a dazzling display of competitive dancers in brilliantly coloured regalia, from July 8 to 9, 2023. Sample traditional native cuisine and pick up authentic artworks, crafts, carving, beadwork, jewelry and more from onsite artisan vendors.

Did you know?

Montréal Chef Chuck Hughes (Garde Manger) travelled across Quebec and Ontario to meet and learn from Indigenous communities and their culinary traditions. He made a TV series out of it that airs on Canada’s Indigenous television network APTN. He’s been quoted saying he learned a lot of new cooking techniques along the way and earned a new respect for ingredients.

Our ways: Peel Trail

A tribute to the Iroquian peoples

Tsi niion kwarihò:ten (“Our ways: Peel Trail”) is a tribute to the Iroquoian peoples on the island of Montréal. Dotted with bronze sculptures, this route encourages reflection and mutual understanding between the various native and non-native cultures.

Throughout this auditory and visual experience, we discover the artistic dialogue between MC Snow, a Kanien'kehá:ka artist, and Kyra Revenko, a non-Aboriginal artist. Inspired by the Kanien'kehá:ka thanksgiving ceremony “Words Before All Else”, their works honor every essential element of life, reflecting the richness of cultural diversity.

Archaeological digs carried out between 2016 and 2019 on Sherbrooke and Peel streets have revealed a 14th-century Iroquoian village. This major discovery is the inspiration for this tour.

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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