First Peoples > Arrival of Strangers > Social Gatherings

Arrival of Strangers - The Last 500 Years

Social Gatherings

For thousands of years, Aboriginal people have come together to pray, honour the dead, hunt, gather food and materials, and trade. At Sun Dances, feasts, Midewiwin ceremonies, potlatches and other events that vary from one society to another, they have renewed acquaintances, introduced children to relatives, arranged marriages, and competed in sports. Gatherings ensure continued sharing of cultural knowledge, and reaffirm the relationship of Aboriginal people to the land, and its human and non-human inhabitants.

Following European settlement, many gathering places became inaccessible, lost under the development of cities, towns, resorts and highways. Some are now on private land or in Canadian and American parks.

Between 1885 and 1952, the government outlawed potlatches, Sun Dances, and other dances and ceremonies. Aboriginal people met secretly to hold these gatherings, often risking imprisonment.

Jared Buffalo and son Liam at the Ermineskin pow-wow, Hobbema, Alberta, 2001, photograph by Morgan Baillargeon
Canadian Museum of Civilization, K2001-1027
Jared Buffalo and son Liam - K2001-1027
Previous      Next