15 authentic ways to connect with Indigenous Canada

Exploring the traditions and culture of the Indigenous peoples of Canada provides unique opportunities for visitors looking for deeper travel experiences

Photograph by Adam Ferguson
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Paddling Lake Opemisca at sunset, close to the Cree community of Ouje-Bougoumou, which translates as "the place where people gather", Québec.
Photograph by Adam Ferguson

Experiencing Indigenous culture in Canada first hand can be a transformative experience–from urban explorations with Indigenous guides, to interpretive tours on the vast Prairies, and distinctive dining experiences like high-end Indigenous restaurants and clam bakes on beaches. These are the truly unique ways to connect with Indigenous culture that will forever change your perspective on Canada, and show you just how incredible this diverse country can be.

Indigenous experiences in Canada’s biggest cities

Talaysay Tours Talking Trees walking tours through Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, share knowledge from the local Squamish Nation and Shíshálh people. You’ll learn how plants throughout the park were harvested and used by Indigenous peoples, and hear stories of how they lived harmoniously on the land for thousands of years.

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Stanley Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, is home to a number of totem poles–the nine at Brocton Point are one of the city’s most photographed attractions.

At a Feel the Heartbeat workshop at the Canadian Museum of History in Ottawa, Ontario, members of the Algonquin First Nation guide you through the use of traditional hide drums and horn rattles, while teaching a traditional dance. There are also opportunities to watch dance performances and paddle traditional voyageur canoes through Ottawa with guides dressed in traditional regalia as part of the Aboriginal Voyageur experience.

The eighteen suites, common areas, and sweat lodge (a domed structure used for traditional purification rituals) of Skwachàys Lodge are styled by Indigenous artists, offering a unique luxury experience in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown. The lodge is owned by the Vancouver Native Housing society, and your stay or purchase from the fair trade gallery in the lobby supports good works in the community.

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Indigenous art fills the luxurious suites and common areas at Skwachàys Lodge, a social enterprise located in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown.

Inspired modern takes on Indigenous cuisine

Feast Cafe Bistro in Winnipeg, Manitoba, serves simple, seasonal dishes that are a modern take on traditional Indigenous foods, and pays respect to the animals and plants that nourish those who eat there. Chef and owner Christa Bruneau-Guenthur is a member of the Peguis First Nation, and delights in sharing her culture through food.

Catch the Mr. Bannock food truck parked up on the streets of Vancouver. Squamish Chef Paul Natrall offers tasty street eats in a style that he calls “fusion-indigenous cuisine.” Try the bannock, a traditional fried bread, with house-made honey butter, juniper berry dry-rubbed chicken in a bannock waffle with apple slaw, or his award-winning “Indian tacos.”

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At Feast Bistro, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, chef and owner Christa Bruneau-Guenthur delights in sharing her Peguis First Nation culture through food.

Chef Johl Whiteduck Ringuette serves breakfast and lunch at NishDish in Toronto, Ontario, sourcing as many ingredients as possible from Indigenous suppliers. The menu changes daily, but you can expect to see dishes such as venison stew, roasted elk or buffalo, hominy corn soup, dandelion green salad, and baked bannock.

Sweet sleeps, from luxurious hotels to Indigenous inspired architecture

Overnight in a tipi at Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park in Siksika, Alberta, home to the Siksika/Blackfoot First Nations. You’ll be able to explore their extensive museum, taking part in learning experiences such as the medicinal uses of traditional plants, how to make your own hand drum, and observing traditional dance and drum performances.

Quaaout Lodge and Spa on the shores of Little Shuswap Lake in British Columbia is on Secwepemc Territory, offering sweeping vistas of beautiful unspoilt lands. You’ll find a sweat lodge, authentic gourmet meals, and architecture inspired by traditional Secwepemc winter houses.

At Shakat Tun Wilderness Camp in Kluane Lake, Yukon, have an immersive experience with members of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. Stay overnight in rustic wood-heated log cabins, and linger on to enjoy hands-on activities such as ice fishing, and learn crafts such as beading and drum-making.

Immerse yourself in rich cultural experiences

Participating in a powwow – a gathering to celebrate Indigenous culture through dance, music, food, and friendship – is a powerful experience. Powwows happen across Canada throughout the summer, for example Eskasoni Powwow in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, which happens in late June, the Echoes of a Proud Nation Powwow in Kahnawake, Quebec, happens each July, and the Akwesasne International Powwow on Cornwall Island, Ontario, is held each September.

Stay in a traditional long house at the Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations in Wendake, Quebec, which includes a fire keeper tending your fire (whose role is also to guide your dreams) all night, a traditional tea, and breakfast at La Traite Restaurant which specializes in First Nations cuisine.

Head to the shores of Lennox Island, Prince Edward Island, for a delicious and authentic meal. Local Mi’kmaq community elders will build a fire, cook up freshly picked shellfish on the beach and show you the old way of baking bannock in the embers before serving it with butter and molasses.

Appreciate nature in wild and wonderful locations

Aurora viewing with the Dene Nation in Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories, is a four-hour experience with storytelling, traditional foods, Dene history and legends, and drumming. In the comfort of a heated cabin, you’ll get to watch the northern lights dance across the sky, and connect with a rich cultural history in a vast unspoiled land teeming with wildlife.

Dog-sledding with Wapusk Adventures in Churchill, Manitoba, is fun with or without snow, as you get to interact with dozens of friendly working dogs and experience the thrill of mushing through the boreal forest.

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Connect with legends and tradition as the northern lights dance across the sky with the Dene Nation in Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories.

Paddle ancient canoe routes through the waterways of Manitoulin Island in Northern Ontario with Indigenous guides from Great Spirit Circle Trail sharing local legends and history, as well as teaching you traditional survival techniques and stopping for tea and bannock, along the way.

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