Discover the Outaouais’ rich Indigenous heritage

Published on May 12 2023

Learn about Indigenous cultures by visiting places in the Outaouais that are rich in history. The region occupies traditional Algonquin lands, specifically the territory of the Anishinabeg Nation. The word Outaouais comes from the Algonquian adawe, which means to buy and sell, a reference to the fur trade and bartering carried out in the region. The rich history of the First Nations has shaped the Outaouais and influenced its culture. Try new experiences, view works by Indigenous artists, and taste authentic flavours. 

An Indigenous presence in museums

Visit the Canadian Museum of History to learn about the history and cultural and spiritual heritage of the Indigenous people of Canada’s Pacific Coast as you walk through the Grand Hall, one of the country’s most impressive indoor public spaces. Stroll through this magnificent space, admire the view of Canada’s Parliament Buildings through the curving six-storey window wall, and tour six Indigenous houses replicating the homes of First Nations people. Visit the First Peoples of Canada’s Northwest Coast exhibit and learn more about an extraordinary culture that has existed in Canada for thousands of years. 

The National Gallery of Canada is home to one of the world’s largest collections of Indigenous and Canadian art. View works that illustrate themes shared by many Indigenous nations, including forced assimilation, cultural repression, and relocation. Witness the writing of one of the most remarkable chapters in Canadian art history: Inuit art, a new art form emerging through various artistic mediums, including printmaking, drawing and sculpture. 

Visit the Canadian War Museum and learn about the participation of Indigenous people in armed conflicts involving Canada’s armed forces and the role they played in both world wars. Delve into the wartime circumstances and history of Canada’s Indigenous troops, including the two largely Indigenous formations of the First World War: the 107th “Timber Wolf” Battalion and the 114th Battalion (known as Brock’s Rangers). 

At the Canadian Museum of Nature, visit Our Land, Our Art, an exhibition in the Northern Voices Gallery developed in collaboration with the Avataq Cultural Institute. Learn about Inuktitut, the official language of the Inuit, and see Nunavik through the eyes of Indigenous artists. 

The Symmes Inn: Windows onto the Ottawa River permanent exhibition at the Symmes Inn Museum shows how the Anishinabeg contributed to the region’s economic development. Learn about rights of way and how the Indigenous people served as political and commercial intermediaries in the Outaouais. 

Rewarding learning opportunities

Visit Parc Omega and walk the First Nations Trail, a unique site in North America that pays tribute to the ten First Nations and Inuit of Quebec. At the trail’s end, pass under the wings of the Thunderbird, a symbolic figure of protection in many First Nations cultures. 

Learn about Indigenous culture at the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg Cultural Centre. Explore the history of the Algonquin people through the artifacts, paintings and photographs featured in the Kitchi Sibi exhibit, a permanent archaeological display mounted by the Canadian Museum of History. Participate in on-site workshops where you can learn embroidery; make your own earrings, moose call horn, and dreamcatchers; dance to the sound of drums; learn traditional dances; and more. 

The National Arts Centre Indigenous Theatre presents performances that reflect the history and culture of the Indigenous community. Some of the shows offer a journey to Indigenous lands and a tribute to the Kanien’kehá:ka community, while others address important issues such as climate change and land claims. 

Discover Khewa (“northern wind”), a boutique and art gallery that prides itself on contributing to the economy of First Nations and Inuit people by promoting Indigenous, Métis and Inuit artists. Shop for clothing, jewellery, body care products, artwork and more. 

Boreal flavours in the spotlight

If you’re in downtown Gatineau, stop by the Native Women’s Association of Canada‘s Indigenous Cultural Business Event Centre. The five-storey building houses 11 meeting rooms, the Indigenous arts and crafts boutique Artisanelle, and Café Bouleau. Take a seat in the café and treat yourself to a dandelion coffee or a refreshing iced coffee flavoured with lavender syrup. Sample wild cuisine and taste dishes made with Quebec’s wild plants. 

Nikosi Bistro Pub (nikosi means “bear paw”) invites you to sample a menu prepared with love and featuring traditional French cuisine fused with Indigenous ingredients. The restaurant is run by two creative restaurateurs from the Indigenous community: one is Métis and the other is Anishinabe. 

Indigenous culture is an integral part of the Outaouais region’s history. Try new experiences while learning about ancestral and contemporary traditions. 


Visit the region’s museums and discover some amazing exhibitions. 

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