Long before La Vérendrye and the first Europeans arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1738, First Nations peoples populated this prairie landscape. The original nations met over 6,000 years ago to gather and trade at The Forks, where the Red and Assiniboine Rivers converge.

Today, the history and culture of the Indigenous peoples is kept and celebrated at The Forks, the city’s number one destination for both locals and visitors alike.

The Oodena Celebration Circle at The Forks is a special spot for First Nations people that holds the story of several generations of First Nations communities. During its creation, the site was excavated down to the same level where Indigenous people walked 3,000 years ago. Its monolithic statues provide sightlines for stargazing with the naked eye and they align with the winter and summer, morning and night solstices and equinoxes. On certain days, such as National Indigenous Peoples Day, Elders lead a public ceremony at the site and keep a sacred fire burning from sunrise to sunset.

Indigenous experiences in Canada

On The Forks site is the award-winning Canadian Museum for Human Rights, rising up from the ground like a huge glacier made of ice and stone. The dramatic Indigenous Perspectives Gallery is one of 11 galleries and offers a 360-degree look at the concept of connectivity between all things in life while offering an Indigenous perspective on our human rights and responsibilities.

Cross the Riel Esplanade footbridge — named for Louis Riel, the Métis leader and founder of Manitoba — linking The Forks to Saint-Boniface to explore Le Musée de Saint Boniface Museum. The museum brings Manitoba’s rich French and Métis heritage to life and includes many historical Riel artifacts including his writings and coffin. The museum also shows what it was like to live in this developing community during the mid-1800s.

The Métis Nation in Manitoba

Beside the museum is the magnificent Cathédrale de Saint-Boniface Cathedral — an iconic feature of the Winnipeg skyline. Nearby lies Riel’s gravesite, its popularity shown by the well-worn path that marks the way to his tombstone, always encircled by a brightly-coloured Métis sash known as a ceinture fléchée.

For a look at Inuit culture, stop by the Winnipeg Art Gallery, home to the world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art. Continue to the Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery, an artist-run gallery in the heart of the Exchange District, where artists showcase topical pieces that reflect the authentic, current culture of the Indigenous community.