Connecting with indigenous nations - McCord Stewart Museum

Connecting with Indigenous Nations

The McCord Stewart Museum offers you a variety of content to connect with Indigenous nations: exhibitions, activities, blog articles, online collection, education kits. This page is your new destination to browse it all with a single click! The page is updated regularly so that every time you visit, your experience is a chance to (re)discover content.

The digital artwork Mother Earth’s Guiding Light, created by Leilani Shaw, Kanien’kehá:ka and Northern Paiute artist, celebrates the profound essence of Indigenous heritage and resilience. This visual tale includes several symbols present in Indigenous stories handed down for hundreds of years in Quebec, scroll down to learn more about their meaning.

The Museum acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

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Process of indigenization

The Museum has been engaged in a process of indigenization aimed at increasing the relevance and accessibility of the Indigenous Cultures collection to Indigenous communities and ensuring that its scope reflects their concerns and contemporary perspectives.

Learn more

Indigenous Cultures collection

The Indigenous Cultures collection is composed of over 16,000 archaeological and historical objects covering nearly 12,000 years of history. Eloquent examples of the material culture of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people living primarily in Canada, these items reflect the great diversity and richness of Indigenous cultures.

Learn more

The Big Dipper

The Big Dipper, also known as the Seven Dancers, symbolizes unity and determination.

Seven children’s quest for a feast is met with challenges, yet their collective dance under the stars showcases their resolve. Despite obstacles, they become stars, a testament to their strong spirit.

The constellation represents their endurance and resilience, shining brightest during mid-winter when the days are darkest, a reminder of their unwavering unity.


Birds symbolize compassion and assistance.

When the pregnant Skywoman falls from Sky World down to earth, they recognize her need for help and work together to ensure her safety. Sent by the concerned animals from earth, a flock of birds catch her and guide her gently onto the back of a Great Turtle.

Through their actions, the birds represent the caring nature of these beings, aiding her in the creation of life on Turtle’s back and establishing her role as the first mother of this earth, embodying the essential harmony between humanity and the natural world. 

The Moon cycle

The moon cycle is deeply intertwined with the cyclical nature of seasons and time.

Represented by the segments on the turtle’s back, each of the thirteen moons corresponds to a distinct phase of the moon cycle, such as Midwinter and Harvest, reflecting the natural rhythms of the environment. The twenty-eight platelets around the shell further align with the moon cycle’s twenty-eight days.

This calendar not only carries the ancestral wisdom of our ancestors but also serves as a guide for education and organizational management, embodying the integration of traditional knowledge into contemporary life.

The strawberry plant

The symbolism of the strawberry plant is richly interwoven with the Haudenosaunee Creation Story.

Skywoman’s act of planting strawberries on the back of a turtle, where she landed, signifies their significance as a sacred gift from Sky World.

These berries mark the arrival of summer and are celebrated through ceremonies to honor Creations’ continuous provision.

The strawberry ceremony includes sharing strawberry juice, which holds not only cultural importance but also nutritional benefits. Research highlights the potential of strawberries to regulate blood sugar levels and reduce inflammation, aligning the fruit’s natural properties with its symbolic role in sustaining and nurturing the well-being of the community.

Traditional markings

Traditional markings bear profound symbolism in Inuit traditions, embodying the legacy of Inuit origin stories and key instances in an individual’s life.

Sedna’s story is about a sea goddess: as she clung to the boat, her father’s actions are depicted through the tattoos’ lines and patterns, mirroring the places where he chops off her finger tips, knuckles, hands and so forth, all of which fall into the sea and become seals, whales and other mammals.

These traditional markings hold timeless significance and preserve Inuit heritage across the Arctic. 

Mother Earth’s Guiding Light

Mother Earth’s Guiding Light: Indigenous Wisdom, Storytelling, and Multigenerational Knowledge is a captivating digital artwork that celebrates the profound essence of Indigenous heritage and resilience.

Against a celestial backdrop, a diverse collection of Indigenous wisdom is sprinkled throughout the art piece. This visual tale pays homage to the matrilineal lineage of women as symbols of strength and continuity, their silhouettes echoing the shapes of mountains and rivers, representing the profound connection to Mother Earth.

Vibrant hues, strong symbolism, and intricate details reflect the various meanings woven into Indigenous stories.

Mother Earth’s Guiding Light captures the spirit of Indigenous communities, their unyielding commitment to preserving ancestral wisdom and honoring rich Indigenous knowledge shared with us by the natural world throughout millennia.

Leilani Shaw

Leilani Shaw is a Kanien’kehá:ka and Northern Paiute visual artist and a member of the Turtle Clan. She grew up on Indian Reserve No.14, also known as Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory.

Her visual artwork focuses on contemporary storytelling and giving new life to Indigenous legends handed down for hundreds of years.

Using aspects of surrealism, Leilani integrates teachings and meanings of traditional storytelling into her artwork to create a new and unique world for all to enjoy. Notably, Leilani focuses on subject matter that explores the relationships between us and the matriarchal lineage of women we are all connected to, spanning back millennia.

Leilani is passionate about Indigenous activism and working to make long term systemic change in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal. She is currently working alongside Indigenous NGOs in Montreal to gather data and areas of focus, in order to advocate for community needs to government agencies.

Website | Instagram

Process of indigenization

The Museum has been engaged in a process of indigenization aimed at increasing the relevance and accessibility of the Indigenous Cultures collection to Indigenous communities and ensuring that its scope reflects their concerns and contemporary perspectives.

Learn more

Indigenous Cultures collection

The Indigenous Cultures collection is composed of over 16,000 archaeological and historical objects covering nearly 12,000 years of history. Eloquent examples of the material culture of First Nations, Inuit and Métis people living primarily in Canada, these items reflect the great diversity and richness of Indigenous cultures.

Learn more

Natu-natshishkueu: the adventure of connection

Montreal is Tiohtià:ke, which means “where the currents meet” in Kanien’kehá:ka. During your Museum visit, take your exploration booklet to set off on an adventure with your family! Through observation, imagination and discussion, children and adults encounter Indigenous nations with the exhibition Indigenous Voices of Today.

Activity presented by Hydro-Québec. Recommended for children aged 6 to 11.

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Capitalizing on the unprecedented interest generated by Wampum: Beads of Diplomacy, the Museum is organizing a symposium devoted to these cultural objects, bringing together a dozen Indigenous, Quebecois, Canadian and international specialists.

Recording of the symposium coming soon

See programming

New! – Corporative Package

In the spirit of equity, diversity and inclusion, the McCord Stewart Museum invites you to connect with Indigenous cultures along with your colleagues or business partners.

Enjoy an inspiring, engaging and educational experience with our new package designed to meet the needs of companies wishing to raise their staff’s or clientele’s awareness of the realities of Quebec’s Indigenous nations.

Book now


Indigenous Voices of Today: Knowledge, Trauma, Resilience

The permanent exhibition bears witness to the still unrecognized knowledge of Indigenous peoples in Quebec and Canada as well as the deep wounds they carry and their incredible resilience. About one hundred objects from the Museum’s collection are combined with more than eighty powerful inspiring stories (texts and videos) from members of the 11 Indigenous nations in Quebec, shedding light on their knowledge and philosophies.They speak out about their suffering as well as their dreams and plans for a better future to help restore their health, which has been undermined by the process of assimilation.

As part of an effort to initiate dialogue and foster understanding, the exhibition offers an opportunity for a meaningful connection.


Wampum: Beads of Diplomacy

As of October 20, 2023, the Museum will present an exhibition developed and co-produced with Paris’s musée du quai Branly – Jacques Chirac on the subject of wampum belts. Wampums are remarkable objects made from shell beads that have traded hands for over two centuries at diplomatic meetings between the Indigenous nations of northeastern North America as well as with Europeans. Over 40 wampum belts, including 13 from the Museum’s own collection, will be brought together in a world-first exhibition. This unique event is a chance for museum-goers to learn about and develop an appreciation for these powerful cultural and political symbols.

The participation of contemporary Indigenous voices in the exhibition will highlight the continuing importance of wampum in Indigenous cultures today.



Learning Care: Thoughts from a Conservation Intern

See how treating a cradleboard wrapper involved challenging technical and ethical considerations.

| 6 MIN
| 14 September 2023

Cultural Exploration Lab : Active reflection

Learn more about developing museum programming in collaboration with Indigenous communities.

| 8 min
| 16 May 2023

Presence of the past – Discussion with MC Snow

Discover the artistic process of MC Snow through the emotions and messages conveyed by Kanien’kehá:ka cultural objects

| 6:28
| 23 February 2024

 Indigenous Cultures Collection

Online Collections

The Online Collections is a platform to browse and download historical content from the Museum’s collections. Over 6,000 descriptions and images related to the Indigenous Cultures collection, including objects featured in exhibition galleries, are available online.


Outfit, Kanien’kehaka, 1840-1860

This silk outfit is from Kanehsatà:ke and illustrates the creativity of Haudenosaunee women in integrating aspects of mid-nineteenth-century women’s fashion with traditional dress. With its puffed sleeves and gathered waist, this dress resembles fashionable styles of the period. The leggings and straight skirt are elements of traditional Indigenous dress. The silk ribbon appliqué attests to some of the complex needlework techniques used by Haudenosaunee women. Such outfits were most certainly worn on special occasions.


Education kits for teachers

Open the doors of your classroom to Indigenous voices with the Objects tell their stories digital education kit. The learning resource relies on an interactive and participative approach to support students as they explore different aspects of Indigenous societies and hear how community members view their thriving traditions, values and cultures.

Learn more


27 September 2023

National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Montréal/Tiohtiá:ke, September 26, 2023 – In keeping with its mission to amplify the voices of contemporary Indigenous artists and facilitate access to the Indigenous Cultures collection that it shelters, the McCord Stewart Museum is launching a new webpage featuring a wealth of content on Indigenous cultures.

Read more

16 August 2023

2023 Fall Cultural Progamming

Between now and April 2024, no fewer than four exhibitions will focus on Indigenous cultures at the McCord Stewart Museum. Starting on October 20, the eagerly awaited exhibition Wampum: Beads of Diplomacy will bring together—for the first time ever in a single location—40 wampum necklaces, cultural goods of great diplomatic significance to many Native communities of northeastern North America.

Read more

Connect with Indigenous makers

A unique reference tool created by the Museum, EncycloFashionQC features over 500 entries on who’s who in Quebec fashion, from the 19th century to today. Discover the designers, manufacturers, retailers, organizations and events that have been shaping this industry.


The Museum Boutique is a must for discovering and supporting Indigenous makers and artists! You will find the artwork Mother Earth's Guiding Light, created by artist Leilani Shaw, in both postcard and poster formats.

Visit the Boutique

Are you an Indigenous community member?

  • The Museum offers free admission to members of Indigenous communities (free access limited to the eligible individual only.). Reserve your ticket online.
  • Indigenous communities seeking information about cultural objects from the Museum’s Indigenous Cultures Collection, please contact:
Contact us

Connect and become an ally

Through the permanent exhibition Indigenous Voices of Today, as part of an effort to initiate dialogue and foster understanding, the Museum seeks to encourage a meaningful connection. Here are some suggestions and resources to guide you in your journey to becoming an ally of Indigenous nations.

Become an ally

Acknowledging the land: the Museum's approach

The McCord Stewart Museum sits on land used and occupied by Indigenous peoples for millennia that has never been ceded by treaty. The Kanien’kehá:ka Nation has a profound and ongoing attachment to this territory, which it calls Tiohtiá:ke. Acknowledging that colonialism has had devastating consequences on First Peoples, the Museum recognizes its duty to help raise awareness of Indigenous cultures and to support their continued vitality.

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2027 Strategic Plan: Year 1

In line with its five-year strategic plan for 2022-2027, the Museum is engaged in a process of decolonization. The institution is committed to becoming an agent of change for a more just society and earning the trust of Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Find out more about the actions implemented in the 2022-23 annual report:

  • Easier access to objects in the Indigenous Cultures collection for source communities
  • Enhancement of Online Collections thanks to the release of all Indigenous Cultures collection recordings and the option to download royalty-free, high-resolution images for any use
  • Revision and addition of over 200 Indigenous names for objects in the Indigenous Cultures collection, in accordance with the wishes expressed by Indigenous Nations
  • Identification of a suitable location for ritual ceremonies
  • Easier access to Museum spaces for communities, for their own needs
Read annual report

Permanent Indigenous Advisory Committee

Thank you to the members of the Indigenous Advisory Committee, who generously and graciously share their valuable insight with the Museum’s teams. The committee, which began its work in June 2021, is a platform for sharing and discussing the challenges of Indigenous museology.

The committee  focuses on:

  • Recommending approaches and initiatives for indigenizing the Museum
  • Supporting the institution’s commitment to decolonize museological practices
  • In collaboration with the Collections Management team, analyzing future requests for the repatriation of objects from the Indigenous Cultures collection
  • Offering a cross-disciplinary perspective on Indigenous content in the Museum’s programming
  • Bolstering its efforts to hire and retain Indigenous staff, in accordance with its diversity, equity and inclusion policy