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Teacher's Centre

Aboriginal Art, Culture and Other Traditions of the Aboriginal People

Discover the cultures and lifestyles of Canada's Aboriginal peoples.

Discover the Aboriginal people, and learn about Aboriginal art, as well as important traditions and culture at the Virtual Museum of Canada. Fascinating museum exhibits and an assortment of images await you at the VMC!

Aboriginal Art
The Virtual Museum of Canada also has a variety of images and museum exhibits that showcase Aboriginal art. Search the Image Gallery and find images of Aboriginal artwork, including paintings and prints such as Isa Smilner's Hunting Seal on the Ice at the Breathing Holes, which depicts an aboriginal hunting method, and Peter Rindisbacher's Indians Traveling in Summer. The VMC also comprises a collection of exhibits that feature Aboriginal art, such as Holman: Forty Years of Graphic Art, and Through the Eyes of the Cree, which explores the work of renowned Aboriginal artist Allen Sapp.

Aboriginal Traditions
Log onto the VMC and discover information relating to the important traditions practiced by the Aboriginal people. The VMC houses an extensive Image Gallery where you'll find images of tools used by the Aboriginal for hunting and trapping. View pictures of hunting knives, seal borers, and much more in the Image Gallery. Visit the VMC Exhibits section and explore the lives and traditions of the Aboriginal people. Click on Explore Herschel Island!, and discover the history and folklore behind the whaling practice. Learn about the settlers and Aboriginal people who inhabit the small northwestern island. The VMC's Fun & Games section includes Traditions: Museums Honour the North American Indigenous Games where Indigenous Games and traditional sporting events await you.

Aboriginal Culture
Canada is home to many Aboriginal cultures. Learn about the spirit and diversity of Aboriginal communities by visiting the VMC Exhibits section and the Image Gallery. Visit Our World - Our Way of Life to learn about the Haida Gwaii and Inuit cultures. Click on The 'Respect to Bill Reid' Pole to discover the history behind this Aboriginal monument. Other links such as Haida Spirits of the Sea, and Living Traditions: Museums Honour the North American Indigenous Games help showcase the importance of tradition in Aboriginal culture.

History and Tradition

Part of the Virtual Museum of Canada The Making of Treaty 8 in the Canadian Northwest
The creation of Treaty 8 in the Northwest commemorates a historic event of epic importance for the First Nations people of Northern Alberta. This document, concerning the division of land in the north region of Alberta between the Aboriginal peoples and the Canadian government, remains a topic of controversy and debate even today.

From Time Immemorial - Tsimshian Prehistory
Tsimshian prehistory is represented through exploration of an archaeological excavation along the north coast of British Columbia. The excavation provides information about prehistoric Tsimshian villages, society, and culture.

Alberta: How the West was Young - First Nations & the Metis
This site explores, through photographs, text and audio clips, several Aboriginal groups who reside in the territory of Alberta. (available in English only)

Encounter with the First Nations
Explore these resources on First Nations peoples and their territories.

Part of the Virtual Museum of CanadaNew Brunswick, Our Stories, Our People
Learn about the history of New Brunswick: the stories of the Maliseet, Mi'kmaq and Passamaquoddy people.

Wave Eaters: Native Watercraft in Canada
This selection of Native watercraft from the Canadian Museum of Civilization's collections highlights the creativity and skill of aboriginal boat builders. The kayak, bark canoe, pirogues, and umiaks are all featured in this remarkable exhibit.

Museum of Anthroplogy Sourcebooks
Sourcebooks are comprised of photographs, maps, and quotations, which combine to create a visual story that is easy to read, transport and duplicate. Many of the Sourcebooks have been developed with First Nations residents and interns on subjects of importance to their culture. (available in English only)

Aboriginal Art

The Virtual Museum of Canada provides an image gallery featuring a variety of artworks and artefacts created by Canada's indigenous peoples. You can compile your own collection of images by using My Personal Museum.

Yet Sun Heywa
This website is an interactive educational art game focusing on a journey through the six nations. The goal is to complete the expedition as quickly as possible - but most of all, to have fun.

Art | 2 | Life
Art | 2 | Life's interactive timeline brings 100 years of art, people and events in Canada to life. Journey through the decades and discover our country's significant events, the compelling stories behind our influential achievements and captivating personalities who helped define 20th Century Canada. Search on the theme 'First Nations', or reference the Educational Resources, which include classroom activities on First Nation peoples and other themes. (available in English only)

This resource, featuring works from the National Gallery of Canada, includes lesson plans that present Aboriginal Voices in Canadian Contemporary Art.

Beyond Canada

Part of the Virtual Museum of CanadaCloth & Clay: Communicating Culture - Back in Time Adventure
This site is an interactive "Back in Time" adventure story for younger users who can travel back in time to visit an ancient Maya city and a Chimu desert village. This site also includes a teacher's guide with lesson plans, curriculum links and background information.

Explore additional resources on Inuit Culture.
Explore additional resources on Haida Culture.

In the Classroom:

The theme of Aboriginal peoples presents several facets of interest for students and teachers alike, including culture, traditions, methods of transportation, tools, and artwork. Teachers will find the base material necessary for the elaboration of these classroom activities in the sites suggested above.

Here are a few brief ideas for your classroom:

  1. Complete a sketch of the clothing worn by some Indigenous people during specific seasons of the year.
  2. After a discussion and completing a chart of different tools popular in our culture, for eating, drinking or work, make a comparison between them and the traditional tools of aboriginal people. Note the differences and similarities on the same chart.
  3. Listen to an Aboriginal legend and then compose a modern legend and share it with the class. This project can be done in groups or individually.

Material covered in the resources on these pages can be used in the classroom to enhance students' understanding of the culture and traditions of the Aboriginal Peoples of Canada. In particular, the material will assist in achieving these learning outcomes:

  • Understanding that people express their way of life through their particular culture;
  • Demonstrate awareness and appreciation of various Aboriginal cultures in Canada;
  • Demonstrate understanding of contributions of Aboriginal people to Canadian society;
  • Describe traditional technology used by Aboriginal people in Canada;
  • Demonstrate understanding of Aboriginal people's relationship with the land and natural resources;
  • Describe the role of Canada's First Nations peoples in shaping Canadian identity.