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Manitoba’s thought provoking Indigenous Art Galleries and Museums

Updated: May 24


Itsanitaq Museum in Churchill - Credit: Travel Manitoba

Art installations that make you stop in your steps. Interactive displays that cause moments of deep reflection. Joyous discoveries of histories you thought you knew. It’s all here in Manitoba as together we explore Indigenous attractions and adventure into a greater understanding of our shared histories and unique cultures. A visit to Manitoba means travelling through Treaty 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 Territory and through communities who are signatories to Treaties 6 and 10. Manitoba is located on the ancestral land of the Anishinaabeg, Anishininewuk, Dakota Oyate, Denesuline and Nehethowuk Nations and is the Homeland of the Red River Métis. Northern Manitoba includes lands that were and are the ancestral lands of the Inuit. To learn more about Manitoba's Treaty areas, click here.


From hurt to healing


For more than 60 years, the three-storey brick building near Portage la Prairie was home to one of Canada’s enduring shames—the residential school system. Now the Rufus Prince Building, named for a survivor of Portage la Prairie Indian Residential School who served in the Second World War and became chief of Long Plain First Nation, has been transformed from a place of hurt to a place of healing. Inside is the National Indigenous Residential School Museum, where artifacts and documents create a memorial to those who attended the schools and help survivors along on their healing journeys. Outside, a towering sculpture of a tree and an eagle stand above the beginnings of a healing garden and memorial wall to honour survivors.


National Indigenous Residential School Museum of Canada - Credit: Travel Manitoba

Indigenous stories told


The Indigenous Perspectives Gallery at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is a dramatic space that tells the story of First Peoples. The dedicated gallery is complex, sometimes uncomfortable and always beautiful, but it’s not the only place where Indigenous stories are told. Throughout the museum, the history of colonial violations collides with stunning artworks and thought-provoking images to offer a modern and ever-evolving perspective of human rights. Give yourself some time here to do a deep dive into the diverse range of lived experiences by Indigenous peoples and prepare for unexpected revelations.


Gallery for Indigenous perspectives at Canadian Museum for Human Rights - Credit: Ben Jaworskyj

Contemporary Indigenous art lives here


Since 1996, the Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art Gallery has been the place to get a first glimpse at contemporary First Nations, Métis and Inuit art. The artist-run centre hosts the bizarre and the beautiful, challenging people’s notions of Indigenous art. From exhibits focused on the history of birchbark scrolls to exploring traditional weaving as a storytelling medium, the gallery is the go-to for inspiring and surprising Indigenous art. For a preview, head to their website that offers information in Cree, Ojibwe, Dakota, Michif and Oji-Cree.


Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art - Credit: Travel Manitoba

The world’s largest collection of contemporary Inuit art


Its the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world. And simply a must see. Qaumajuq at the Winnipeg Art Gallery holds 14,000 carvings, drawings, prints and textiles that tell the story of the people of the North. It’s unmistakable white stone façade echoes the vastness of the landscape and inside, a three-storey glass vault filled with thousands of Inuit carvings greets visitors. Get a glimpse of what’s inside with the outdoor projections of contemporary Inuit artwork and imagery that dance across the exterior nightly.


Qaumajuq - Credit: JP Media Works (Courtesy of Travel Manitoba)

Exploring the HBC Gallery


The province’s largest centre for the exploration of science and history is home to the HBC Gallery, a collection of artifacts that tell the story of the world’s oldest commercial enterprises, the Hudson’s Bay Company, and its complicated relationship with Indigenous Peoples. At least half of the artifacts are believed to have come through purchase, trade, ceremonial gift exchange and donations from fur traders and their families, illustrating the day-to-day workings of the fur trade era.


HBC Gallery - Credit: Travel Manitoba

Timeless in Thompson


The log structures that house the Heritage North Museum adds to the authentic northern feel of the place, stocked with artifacts from the area’s fur trade history, a boreal forest diorama and even a caribou hide tipi. The outdoor blacksmith shop harkens to a time when things were made by hand, with care and craftsmanship. And don’t miss the gift shop—one of the best places in town to pick up souvenirs, including wild rice, fur products, Arctic Gold Honey and the work of local artists inspired by the aurora borealis, deep, dark forests and plentiful wildlife.


Heritage North Museum in Thompson - Credit: Travel Manitoba

Itsanitaq: A must-stop in Churchill


The name means ‘things from the past’ in Inuktitut and here, at Itsanitaq in Churchill, you’ll find stunning Inuit carvings, clothing, tools, boats and some truly unique artifacts, like a tiny carving made from the teeth of the carver himself. The gift shop stocks an impressive collection of books featuring northern themes, along with postcards, jewelry and even fireweed jelly.


Itsanitaq Museum in Churchill - Credit: Travel Manitoba

Following Riel’s steps


The spirit of Louis Riel looms large at Musée St. Boniface Museum. It was here at the convent, hospital, orphanage and school hosted by the Grey Nuns that the leader of the Red River Resistance was a student. The museum now houses the largest collection of Riel artifacts and gives us an intimate and unique look of the blend of Indigenous and European people that became the Métis Nation, the founding Indigenous Peoples of the province. The cemetery next door is western Canada’s oldest graveyard and houses one very important gravesite—Louis Riel’s.


Gravesite of Louis Riel in the cemetery of St. Boniface Cathedral in Winnipeg - Credit: Travel Manitoba


Further information can be found at www.travelmanitoba.com.

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