© TQ/J.-F.Hamelin

Aboriginal encounters

A stay in an Aboriginal community in Québec is an unparalleled opportunity to encounter people rich in tradition and heritage who seek to reconcile ancestral values with the demands of modern life. 

Some communities showcase ancestral customs; others focus on adventure or cultural discoveries, while still others offer community-managed accommodations.

The 11 Aboriginal nations of Québec belong to the three major North American language groups: Algonquin, Iroquois and Inuktitut.

Québec is home to 11 linguistically and culturally distinct Aboriginal nations in some 55 villages scattered between the 45th and 62nd parallel. With the exception of northern settlements and those on the Lower North Shore, these communities—be they on the coast, in the forest, in the countryside or in urban settings—are accessible by road.

Learn something of the lessons that nature has given Amerindians and Inuit from the dawn of time. Whether you come for a few hours or a few days, you’ll become—like the water, the tree, the wolf and the caribou—at one with the universe!

Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations © TQ/J.-F. Hamelin

In Québec, the First Nations’ heritage permeates the territory. For the past few years, several communities have been increasingly showcasing the traditions, rites and customs they have kept alive and well for over a millennium. Moreover museums, gardens and themed sites enable visitors to discover the way of life of the nation’s first inhabitants. They can even follow the footsteps of Aboriginals as part of an outdoor adventure off the beaten path.

Dwelling adaptation

While most First Nations peoples now live in North American-style houses, they once had to adapt their dwellings to a sedentary, nomadic or semi-nomadic lifestyle, as well as the climate and their location. As such homes can still be found across Québec’s landscape, travellers can visit a longhouse or sleep in a tepee. In the Great North, it’s even possible to stay in an igloo! These traditional Aboriginal dwellings feature all the comforts of modern life.

Legends and traditions

The Pow Wow is one of the foremost celebrations of ancestral culture among the myriad of Aboriginal rites and traditions. Music, art, handicraft and cuisine are showcased during weekends all summer long. Dressed in traditional garb, participants dance and sing to the beat of drums. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol is forbidden during these events. Other shows, festivals and events celebrate Aboriginal traditions. These offer an interesting look into lesser-known customs that are worth discovering!

Traditional Aboriginal dishes

As hunters, gatherers, fishermen and trappers, Québec’s Aboriginal peoples lived mostly off nature’s bounty and the St. Lawrence River’s plentiful fish. They got their sustenance from game animals, fish, mushrooms and berries they found where they set up their camp. Meat, fruits and vegetables were smoked and occasionally salted to help preserve them longer. Bannock, a type of flat, yeast-free, easy-to-make bread, was a staple food among Aboriginals. In fact, several restaurant owners have enabled their diners to discover traditional Aboriginal cuisine.

Artwork and handicraft

Aboriginal art is expressive, evocative and beautiful. Sculptures, paintings and everyday items created by various communities are all unique and often depict scenes from these peoples’ lives. The Cree are renowned for their leatherworking skill, while Inuit sculptures are famous throughout the world. Combining ancestral culture and modern elements, Aboriginal artworks and handicrafts evoke raw, often unfiltered emotions that make an impression on everyone.

TQ/J.-F. Hamelin
TQ/J.-F. Hamelin
TQ/J.-F. Hamelin