Explore Ottawa’s Indigenous-Themed Itinerary Ideas

Canada’s capital is the perfect place to explore the history, culture, and heritage of Indigenous Peoples

Canada’s capital is the perfect place to explore the history, culture, and heritage of Indigenous Peoples. They considered the region an important meeting and trading location—in fact, the name Ottawa is derived from the Algonquin Anishinaabe word “Odawa” which means “to trade”.

Their important stories are told through museum exhibits, tours and authentic experiences that you won’t find anywhere else, and many of which are Canadian or Ontario Signature Experiences. Check out our top recommendations to help you plan and discover the true cultural roots of Canada by exploring some of Ottawa’s Indigenous programming:

  • Mādahòkì Farm (meaning “share the land” in Algonquin Anishinaabe) is a 66-hectare (164-acre) agritourism venture that includes a year-round Indigenous Marketplace selling authentic goods, a 1km Legacy Trail where plants and flowers and their medicinal and ceremonial uses are highlighted, and the permanent home for nine endangered Ojibwe spirit horses. Four yearly festivals celebrate the seasons.
  • Indigenous retailers include Beandigen Café at Lansdowne in the Glebe neighbourhood, Beaded Dreams in downtown Ottawa, and a social enterprise led by the Assembly of 7 Generations called Adaawewigamig (“place of trade/selling”) in the ByWard Market neighbourhood. All offer authentic goods produced by Indigenous makers, from jewellery to art to clothing to housewares to food.
  • The Canadian Museum of History, a cultural gem located across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Quebec. Canada’s Indigenous legacy is presented throughout Canada’s most-visited museum. Start by admiring the building itself, which was designed by Blackfoot and Métis architect Douglas Cardinal, and the stunning views of Parliament Hill. Inside, walk through the museum’s stunning Grand Hall and admire the largest indoor display of totem poles in the world. Learn the history, diversity, creativity and resourcefulness of First Nations, Inuit and Métis People in the First Peoples Hall. And see how Indigenous stories are woven into the country’s narrative in the Canadian History Hall—the largest and most comprehensive exhibition about Canadian history ever created.
  • On the Ontario side of the Ottawa River, you’ll find the world’s most comprehensive collection of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada. Explore the Canadian and Indigenous Galleries to see the country’s story represented through ancient Indigenous artifacts, religious pieces from New France, Group of Seven paintings and modern Inuit sculptures.
  • Consider attending a performance at the National Arts Centre, home to the first national Indigenous Theatre department in the world. The presentations are based on, performed by, or created by Indigenous artists, and they’re performed in English, French and multiple Indigenous languages. The NAC also hosts free programming, including powwow dance classes!
  • Take a 5-minute walk from downtown Ottawa to view a set of water cascades and islands between the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Indigenous peoples, who used waterways as main transportation routes, called the mighty Ottawa River “Kichi Sibi” (or “great river”) and considered this particular area a sacred site. The Algonquin named the falls “Akikodjiwan” because the natural formation resembled a cauldron, and the term was translated by early French explorers as “chaudière”. The Chaudière Falls were dammed in the early 1900s to produce hydroelectricity for the on-site lumber mills. The operation has since been modernized to be eco-friendly and protect wildlife such as endangered American eels. Part of the site is being made accessible to the public as a mixed-use development project called Zibi which includes park spaces such as Pangishimo Park (meaning “sunset”).