What our Indigenous cultures have in common

Although Indigenous cultures across Canada are extremely diverse, they have a number of similarities. One such similarity is a deep respect for Elders, who hold the key to stories and legends that have been passed down through generations. Another common thread is the spiritual relationship with nature, which permeated all aspects of daily life. The Indigenous Peoples’ long-standing connection with the natural world is often visualized in art, songs, dances, and ceremonies. 

Indigenous cultures: influencing non-Indigenous Canada from day one

Indigenous cultures have been collectively shaping the fabric of Canadian art and culture since the country’s inception. The word “Canada” is derived from the Huron-Iroquois word “kanata,” for “village” or “settlement,” just as the names of countless cities, towns, counties, lakes, rivers and provinces are derived from other Indigenous languages. Indigenous Peoples were the first to turn maple sap into maple syrup — an iconic Canadian favourite. And the national sport of Canada is lacrosse, which was originally played by Indigenous communities.

Healing from the colonial legacy

When colonists settled across Canada, their government implemented a number of restrictive and often violent measures to control and contain Indigenous beliefs, practices, languages and history. For example, from 1831 to 1996, many Indigenous children were taken from their families and communities and placed in residential schools where they were forcibly converted to Christianity and often abused. Indigenous communities were relegated to small parcels of land called Reserves, and they faced prohibitive fines for practicing important cultural rites like “Potlaches,” ceremonial feasts that acknowledged important events like births, deaths, and marriages.

Today, Indigenous Peoples and the Canadian government are undergoing a process called “Reconciliation.” Reconciliation, in a nutshell, is the restoration and healing of the relationship between the Indigenous and non-Indigenous citizens of Canada, as well as the Nation-to-Nation relationships with the Government of Canada. It involves the revitalization of Indigenous languages and cultures, the repatriation of Indigenous artifacts and human remains, and the widespread acknowledgement of the wrongs that were committed.

The Indigenous Renaissance

Indigenous Peoples in Canada are regaining control over their traditional lands and practices through negotiations with the federal government. For the first time in centuries, Indigenous Peoples and their concerns are becoming an integral part of mainstream Canadian discourse.

“You are in the midst of an Indigenous renaissance. Are you ready to hear the truth that needs to be told? Are you ready to see the things that need to be seen?”
– Musicologist, vocalist and composer Jeremy Dutcher, Wolastoqiyik member of the Tobique Nation

Along with these changes, there has been a resurgence of Indigenous art, music, and cultural practices. Young people are unafraid to ask their Elders to speak in the languages that were stolen from them. They are unafraid to reclaim traditional songs, dances and clothing. 

Indigenous Peoples all across Canada welcome you to understand their cultures through hands-on workshops, interactive cultural centres and powerful performances. Journey to the traditional territories of the thriving and diverse Indigenous Peoples who have lived on these lands since time immemorial to experience our stories first hand.