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A Full Itinerary of Celebrating Indigenous Culture in Ottawa’s Original Downtown

February 26, 2024

Ottawa is built on unceded Anishinabe Algonquin territory. The peoples of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation have lived on this territory for millennia. Their culture and presence have nurtured and continue to nurture this land. The Downtown Rideau BIA honours the peoples and land of the Anishinabe Algonquin Nation. The Downtown Rideau BIA honours all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and their valuable past and present contributions to this land. 

There are a number of ways to broaden your knowledge and appreciation for Indigenous culture and history in Ottawa’s Original Downtown. From exhibits, tours, and artwork all within walking distance, make a day of it!

Thayendanega (Joseph Brant) was a notable Mohawk warrior statesman and principal war chief of the Six Nations. He led his people in support of the British, and after the war he brought his people to Canada to settle near where Brantford now stands.

Day One – Experience the Beauty of Indigenous Arts and Theatre

At the National Gallery of Canada, you’ll find the most beautiful collection of Indigenous Galleries where you can learn about their stories through ancient artifacts, religious pieces from the time of New France, the Group of Seven paintings, and Inuit sculptures. Starting on May 17th, the new exhibit called “Radical Stich” will feature a collection of Indigenous Beading. It is one of the defining mediums of contemporary Indigenous art on this continent and the exhibit is raising awareness of this impactful practice.

Head over to the National Arts Centre, which is home to the very first national Indigenous Theatre department anywhere in Canada and the world. Throughout the year, you can view performances and presentations by incredible Indigenous artists in French or English. You can catch the upcoming show of Elle Sofe Sara, a uniquely performed dance performance that connects with nature or see Allison Russell perform alongside Aysanabee on March 14th.

Check out more beautiful artwork at the Ottawa Art Gallery and take in the art created by Mairi Brascoupe and her work “Chickadees and Flowers.” This piece digitizes a birch bark biting reproduced through risograph printing. This piece is interpreted as chickadees flying around flowers.

Indigenous and Canadian galleries feature works of Emily Carr, A.Y Jackson, and many Canadian artists. There is also an impressive view of temporary objects on a loan of over 100 works by Indigenous artists.

Day Two – Indigenous Monuments to Recognize

If you are making your way to Confederation Park, located across the Lord Elgin Hotel, the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument honors the many brave acts of the Indigenous Peoples in war and peacekeeping operations throughout history. Over 7,000 First Nations people have served during the First and Second World Wars and the Korean War. Take the time to commemorate all the unknown Inuit, Indigenous, and other Indigenous people who have sacrificed so much.

Walk a few more steps at the edge of Confederation Park and look at the beautifully sculpted totem pole of Kwakiutl Totem by artist Henry Hunt. In 1971, the province of British Columbia donated this work of art to commemorate the centennial of its entry into Canada.

Recognize the National Aboriginal Veterans Monument and Kwakiutl Totem while exploring the scenic views of Confederation Park across from the Lord Elgin Hotel.

Day Three – International Indigenous Tourism Conference at the Shaw Centre

From all of us here in Ottawa’s Original Downtown, we would like to welcome everyone attending the International Indigenous Tourism Conference at the Shaw Centre over the next few days!

You’ll notice on Rideau Street that we have changed the lights on our engagement poles to orange to represent all the incredible Indigenous artists, businesses, and events here.

Are you worried about where you are going to park? Check out our Parking Blog to help you find all the parking options and rates downtown!