Indigenous Cultures and Traditions
To understand Saskatchewan today, look to the history and traditions of Indigenous peoples. There are meaningful lessons in examining actions and events that altered traditional ways of life and shaped Canadian history. Saskatchewan’s past includes the stories of legendary Chiefs like Poundmaker and Big Bear, and Métis leaders Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont.
Indigenous culture can be explored at heritage sites, museums, galleries and events throughout Saskatchewan. Visitors are invited to build a tipi, create traditional handcrafts, prepare a hide or taste delicious bannock. Ancient tales of people who have lived on this land for thousands of years are told in detail and with passion.
Wanuskewin Heritage Park, a National Historic Site, brings to life the history and culture of the Northern Plains peoples. The longest continually operating dig site in Canada, Wanuskewin has yielded evidence of human occupation pre-dating the Egyptian pyramids.
The First Nations Gallery at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum focuses on the art, traditions and lifestyles of Saskatchewan’s first peoples, and provides background on the Treaties signed in the late 1800s.
The Duck Lake Regional Interpretive Centre houses a collection of artifacts relating to First Nations, Métis and settler history from 1870 to 1905.
Métis Heritage and Tradition
Métis peoples are descendants of mixed Indigenous and European ancestry. The merging of cultures created a proud, vibrant new culture complete with its own language. Métis celebrations are rich with colour and energy, and music plays a central role.
In 1885, Louis Riel led the Métis in an armed defense against the Canadian government. The movement became known as the North West Resistance and was the last military conflict on Canadian soil. At Batoche National Historic site, discover the story of Métis residents – the trails they walked, their homes, church and cemetery, which help tell the story of the Battle of Batoche.
Firmly rooted in First Nations traditions, powwows are vibrant celebrations and meaningful social gatherings. Bells, beads, porcupine quills and feathers adorn the colourful regalia worn by dancers who step, swirl and jingle to the rhythmic drumming and the powerful voices of the singers.
The stately grace of the women’s jingle dance, the passion of the men’s fancy dance, the energy of the youth dances – each has its own history and meaning, preserved through the centuries. Friendly competitions, good food and companionship are all part of the powwow experience.