Memory keepers since time immemorial

With their deep knowledge of stories passed down through Oral Tradition, Indigenous guides have a strong connection to the history of a place. They know the traditional activities that took place in specific locations and can point out cultural landmarks that non-Indigenous eyes are not trained to see. What may seem like a dented cedar tree may in fact be a culturally modified tree: a living tree that was modified thousands of years ago by Indigenous Peoples for use in cultural traditions. And what may seem like a quirky rock sculpture could well be an inukshuk: figures, traditionally made by Inuit Peoples in the Far North, that were used as hunting and navigational aids.


“Guiding tours is a wonderful way to actually reconnect with who we are as well.”  Brenda Holder, Mahikan Trails

Stewards of the land, not owners

For millennia, Indigenous Peoples have had an intricate, respectful and protective relationship with our natural environments. Historically, we have been stewards of the land, not owners. The difference is important: whereas ownership implies dominance, stewardship refers to a responsibility for the wellbeing of nature and all of its creatures. This sense of responsibility for the environment permeates all aspects of traditional Indigenous life: from languages, cultural practices and Oral Traditions to the wisdom passed down through generations.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to maintain and strengthen their distinctive spiritual relationship with their traditionally owned or otherwise occupied and used lands, territories, waters and coastal seas and other resources and to uphold their responsibilities to future generations in this regard.”
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Historically, Indigenous communities lived very sustainably — they only took what they needed from the land, and acted as guardians over its wellbeing. This cultural commitment to nature and wildlife is alive and well today, as many Indigenous Peoples are outspoken activists for environmental protections. From the historic agreement that created the Great Bear Rainforest to the unique co-management of forest resources between the Innu Nation and the government in Labrador, Indigenous-led conservation efforts are transforming the way all Canadians understand and practice environmentalism.

A spiritual connection upheld by Oral Traditions

Indigenous Peoples’ relationship to the land is spiritual. Humans are traditionally not seen as separate from their natural environment, but rather part of a large, interdependent ecosystem. Each community of Indigenous Peoples has their own way of interacting with and viewing the natural world. This spiritual connection to nature and wildlife has historically been passed down through Oral Tradition. These legends, not to be confused with stories for entertainment value, informed many spiritual experiences and served as powerful instructive tools for how to hunt, fish, practice culture and maintain health.

The Inuit legend of Tikta’Liktak, for example, weaves dreams and survival skills to tell the story of a young hunter’s journey home after getting lost on an ice floe. The Mi’kmaq, Wolastoqiyik, Abenaki and Algonquian peoples in the Eastern Woodlands region traditionally believe that a mischievous yet benevolent being called Glooscap formed the sun, moon, fish, animals and humans. Glooscap’s exploits often explain features of the natural world, like salmon runs, beaver dams and thunder. Northwest Coastal nations’ legends often speak of Raven, a trickster who summons both chaos and delight because he is bored. One Tsimshian First Nations story describes how Raven created spirit bears, rare white-coated black bears, to remind humans of the last ice age.

Share in the wisdom of our stories

The diversity of Indigenous Peoples’ connection to our natural environment has to be experienced in person. Hear first hand how certain mountains came to be formed, or why salmon swim upstream. Learn from the original inhabitants of these lands how scientific knowledge is woven into stories, and hear nature’s secrets.