Getting to know the Indigenous nations while cruising the Saint Lawrence River

April 13, 2023

No experience is as memorable as immersing yourself into a different culture, and the opportunity to discover more about the 11 Indigenous nations of Québec is one that shouldn’t be missed! 

The province has a diverse cultural background and some port of call along the majestic Saint Lawrence River offers plenty of activities for cruise passengers to meet with the fascinating communities that populate its shore. Here are a few examples.

 Gaspésie: breaking bread with the people of the sea

The Mi'kmaq were the first people to meet the Europeans who arrived in Canada on the coast of the Gaspé Peninsula in the 16th century, and even provided the newcomers with help. The Mi’kmaq are impressive people with a long history of fishing, boat-building, and a deep love of music, which is still present in their rituals and ceremonies. 

Those alighting in Gaspé can visit the Mi’kmaq Interpretation site of Gespeg, which introduces visitors to this nation’s history, traditions and beliefs. There is a museum, guided tour and a faithful recreation of a traditional 17th-century village. There are even opportunities to learn how to make traditional objects such as medicine wheels and dreamcatchers, to taste traditional bannock (a type of bread) or sample Labrador tea.

 Havre-Saint-Pierre: visiting a traditional longhouse

The innu Nation is one of the most populous indigenous nations of Québec. Initially called Montagnais by the French settlers, the Innu community is a nomadic one, and it is possible to learn more about their history in Havre-Saint-Pierre. The Maison de la culture innue is actually built where the Innu Nation of Ekuanitshit used to set up camp during the summer. There is a wide range of activities aimed at sharing knowledge of the culture of this fascinating community, including a permanent exhibition, videos, immersive installations, maps and artefacts. Visitors shouldn’t miss the opportunity to enter a traditional longhouse (or Shaputuan), or to take part in a traditional drum initiation!

Sept-Îles: reconnecting with nature

The port of Sept-Îles, along the Saint Lawrence River, is also home to the Innu Nation. Those hoping to learn more about native medicine, snowshoe weaving or drum making are welcomed on the Traditional Innu site. Art lovers will enjoy the dance and chanting demonstrations, while foodies can taste delicious traditionally prepared food. 

History lovers should also head to the Shaputuan museum for an opportunity to learn more about the one-thousand-year-old history of these nomadic people. Explore how they hunted caribou in the winter, fished for salmon in the spring, or foraged for berries and plants in the fall. The Innu people kept, reused and recycled everything: prepare to meet the original founders of the zero waste movement!

Québec City: sampling indigenous-inspired cuisine

Québec City is legendary in itself, but those looking for a unique experience should head to Wendake. It is home to the Huron-Wendat nation, and is the only recognised Wendat community in all of Canada. Its Huron traditional site features an interactive museum set up to preserve the culture of this native community. Guide tours, a craft shop that’s beyond impressive, but most amazing of all, some great indigenous-inspired cuisine! 

La Traite is the perfect place to sample game meats, herbs from the boreal forest and other accompaniments made from local berries. A little closer to the port is also Sagamité, located in Old Québec, which offers a unique culinary experience full of unique flavours. A once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Cruising along the Saint Lawrence River is the perfect way to get to know the many communities that make up the social fabric of the province of Québec. And to sample a few treats along the way! 

Find out more about the Cruise the Saint Lawrence sustainable development guidelines on our sustainability page.