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A Journey into Quebec’s Indigenous Traditions

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Quebec is all about wide open spaces, a warm welcome, wildlife and forests as far as the eye can see. But first and foremost, it is home to 11 First Nations. Want to learn more about their know-how, heritage and history? Plan your activities around indigenous tourism in Quebec. Join us to discover preserved ancestral traditions and unique experiences from Manawan to Wendake. You’ll meet people whose smiles you’ll remember for a long time after you’ve returned home.

The 11 indigenous Quebec first nations and their names

Quebec is home to 11 distinct indigenous communities with a total population of more than 101,000. These nations are:

  • Anishinaabe
  • Atikamekw
  • Cree
  • Huron-Wendat
  • Innu
  • Malecite
  • Micmac
  • Mohawk
  • Naskapi
  • Abenaki
  • Inuit

Each nation has its own language, traditions and history. They are divided into 55 communities across Quebec. Indigenous tourism in Quebec offers a unique opportunity to discover these rich and ibrant cultures. Whether you’re taking part in festivities, exploring unique landscapes or tasting culinary specialities, you’ll have the opportunity to enjoy an authentic and memorable experience.

Manawan, or the call of the North

We head north, 250 km from Montreal, to the village of Manawan—Atikamekw territory in Lanaudière, where the indigenous communities ensure the language and culture live on. Upon arrival we’re greeted by our guide, Régis, a giant teddy bear of a man, who takes us to the snowmobiles we’ll use to explore the backcountry. We set off in the suits we’d rented for the occasion.

There are evergreen trees and lakes everywhere we look. This is a land that is cut from a different cloth, where the off-road is the way to go. Forty-five minutes later, we arrive at a simple little house, heated by a wood-burning stove, where a couple of women are busy preparing a moose stew for our lunch. With nothing to do but go outside and explore, we take our time, listening to the sounds of nature.

Later in the evening, the artist Sakay Ottawa will play us a few tunes on his guitar. It is the perfect way to round off this unforgettable day in the heart of the indigenous tourism of Quebec.

EnglishFrançaisAtikamekw
HelloBonjourKwei
WelcomeBienvenueMiro peicak
GoodbyeAu revoirMatcaci
YesOuiEhe
Thank youMerciMikwetc
NoNonNama
I love youJe t’aimeKisakihitin

“When I come out here on my own, I often stop to listen to the silence,” Régis tells us.

Around nine we get back on the snowmobiles and head out to Kempt Lake, a 47km stretch of water. There is a reddish moon peeking out of the clouds. We switch off the engines, look up at the stars and feel the wind in our hair.

Wendake, land of the Huron

Just 15 km from Quebec City, Wendake is an autonomous Huron-Wendat nation territory. We make our way to the traditional Huron Onhouä Chetek8e site – “From Yesterday to Today” – which includes a longhouse – the traditional Huron dwelling – a meat and fish smokehouse and a sweat lodge for cleansing the body and spirit.

The roar of the Kabir Kouba waterfall, formed by the 42 metre deep gorge of the Akiawenrahk River, can be heard in the distance.

We head to the luxurious Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations after a feast of fresh game at the on-site restaurant La Traite. This hotel complex offers an experience that combines luxury and tradition, including a night in an adjacent longhouse and interactive exhibits. A very interesting and unusual stay!

A fire smolders as Yolande, an indigenous storyteller, recounts Huron myths and legends, and we munch on the traditional unleavened bread known as bannock—a house specialty. We cook the bannock ourselves, on a branch over the fire, and wash it down with Labrador tea. Later we lie down on our beds of lynx, bear and wolf fur, snuggled into huge sleeping bags, and drift off to sleep under the watchful eye of the ‘fire guardian’.

In fact, it’s in the summer that the forest is at its most beautiful, offering a wide range of activities.

  • A night in a teepee
  • A workshop on medicinal plants
  • A language workshop
  • An interpretive hike
  • Swimming, canoeing and sea kayaking on the Saint Charles River
  • Traditional dancing
  • It’s even possible to book a craft workshop to learn traditional embroidery using porcupine quills and elk hair.

Wendake is an absolute must on any itinerary in the Quebec City area and remains, to this day, one of the most vital experiences of indigenous tourism in Canada.

While you’re here, be sure to stop by the Onhwa’ Lumina, an enchanted night walk that celebrates the Huron-Wendat Nation and their way of life. The 1.2 kilometre trail is filled with the magic of light, sound and video projections created by Moment Factory right in Wendake.

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

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