Honouring the history, continuity and diversity of Aboriginal peoples in Canada
The First Peoples Hall permanent exhibition opened to the public in January 2003. It occupies several galleries and presents more than 2,000 artifacts and images illustrating the history of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The space devoted to this exhibition totals more than 2,000 square metres. Extensive programming about and by First Peoples is offered to visitors on an ongoing basis.
The First Peoples Hall is the country’s foremost venue for celebrating the remarkable history and accomplishments of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. The Hall highlights aspects of Aboriginal identity and relationship to the land, from the original habitation of the North American continent to present-day society.
Visitors will witness the contributions of Aboriginal communities – achievements, through time, in fields as wide-ranging as politics, medicine, the arts, transportation and technology. They will gain an appreciation of Aboriginal lifeways and traditional knowledge. They will better understand the impacts of disease epidemics and, more recently, of policies of assimilation and of the isolation imposed by the Indian reserve system and other institutions.
The First Peoples Hall illustrates the ancient origins of Aboriginal Canada in presentations that include creation stories narrated by Elders. Other impressions of the ancient past, such as evidence from archaeological sites in northernmost Yukon or coastal Nova Scotia, show how the land and its resources changed over millennia and shaped Aboriginal lifeways.
Visitors will see how European newcomers found a continent already fully occupied by First Peoples, whose unique cultures were each superbly adapted to their particular environments, including what seemed to outsiders to be the coldest and bleakest regions of the habitable world. Presentations evoke the spiritual and practical preparations that made possible the hunting of the bowhead whale, one of the largest mammals, as well as the communal strategies required by the buffalo hunt.
The First Peoples Hall recounts the changing relationship between the Aboriginal peoples and European settlers, from the initial interactions as equal partners who formed economic agreements, political alliances and peace and friendship treaties, to the colonial practices of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that deprived First Peoples of their power and kept them locked in a state of economic dependency.
Finally, the First Peoples Hall celebrates a history of cultural survival and acknowledges the range of contributions that Aboriginal communities continue to make to our world.