Travel Blog

23 Feb

375 years—and more—of Montréal Indigenous culture

Montréal’s 375th anniversary marks the official founding of Ville Marie by Europeans in 1642, but long before the Europeans arrived, there was a rich tapestry of First Nations cultures all along the St. Lawrence River. Montréal was established on Mohawk (Kanien’keha:ka) land, and in celebrating its upcoming anniversary, the City has partnered with the Urban Aboriginal Strategy Network (UASN) to provide an eclectic array of events throughout the year celebrating Montréal Indigenous arts, cultures, and history.

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Une publication partagée par Sacred Fire Productions (@ashukanmtl) le 16 Sept. 2016 à 12h21 PDT

There is no better place to encounter First Nations culture than at a pow-wow, which is an exchange and celebration of cultures through dance, song, community, trade, and food. What began as a demonstration pow-wow for students on a college campus four years ago has snowballed into the present-day Montréal Pow-Wow, showcasing top-notch songs, dances, and regalia on the island of Montréal. After tripling in size with each new year, the weekend-long pow-wow is guaranteed to host a variety of some of the best singers, dancers, and drummers in the province (and northeast U.S.).

The fifth annual edition of Sacred Fire Productions’ Rendez-vous des Arts Métissées is a festival of collaborate creation, be amplified by support from the 375th organizers. When it opens in June, it will be taking place all over Old Montréal, bringing Indigenous and Indigenous-friendly music, crafts, theatre, arts, and multidisciplinary experiences to public spaces everywhere. With a multitude of outdoor and family-friendly events, this will be an ideal destination for those with children.


Sacred Fire Productions is committed to promoting the richness and variety of contemporary Aboriginal art while bridging Indigenous and non-Indigenous cultures in Montréal. In the heart of Old Montréal, its Ashukan Cultural Space is a physical headquarters for that project. With an activity space on its top floor, an art gallery on the second storey, and a boutique on the first, Ashukan is a one-stop shop for those wishing to see genuine Indigenous culture sold in a way that gives the profits directly to the artists in a sustainable, fair-trade manner. In addition to organizing the Rendez-vous des Arts Métissés during the summer, Sacred Fire Productions will be staging a variety of art shows, musical events, and other cultural occasions throughout the year at this location.


The First People’s Festival, a week-long festival of Indigenous culture, is in its 27th year, though since it has moved to the Place des festivals, its growth has been dramatic. The esplanade will be transformed by the addition of First Nations teepees, Inuit tupiks and Iroquoian longhouses (representing Montréal’s specific Mohawk history). Against this backdrop, the Festival presents nightly film screenings, indoor and outdoor concerts and theatre plays, while affiliated art exhibitions take place in galleries all around the neighbourhood.

A bright star among the constellation of new Indigenous arts platforms, Wapikoni Mobile is a non-profit organization that brings a mobile film-production studio to First Nations and Inuit communities and teaches First Nations youth how to make films of their lives. To date, they have produced 750, with dozens winning awards in festivals around the world. In keeping with their mobile spirit, this summer Wapikoni—in partnership with Musique Nomade and as part of the 375th celebrations—will carry projectors all over Montréal on depanneur-style delivery bicycles, turning back-alleys in every borough of the city into makeshift movie-theatres.


The Montréal Science Centre has drafted a mixed Indigenous and non-Indigenous team to develop this exhibition for October of 2017, which is part of the 375th anniversary celebrations. Indigenous Innovations will celebrate the full history of Montréal Indigenous societies, development, and traditions across a time frame of many thousands of years. As an Indigenous co-creation, this exhibit will first be tested before audiences of Mohawk students before it opens to the public, making sure that every detail is culturally and historically accurate.

Up next:375 things to do in Montréal in 2017



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