5 Interesting Facts About Canadian Indigenous Art

Did you know that the history of Canadian Indigenous Art dates back thousands of years? In fact, some historians estimate that primitive humans arrived in what is now present-day Canada anywhere from 12,000 to 80,000 years ago -- during the last ice age.

These ancient humans eventually became the Indigenous people of Canada. And because of their extensive history, they have developed a rich sense of cultural refinement that spreads into everything they do -- from the food they eat, the clothes they wear, and even to the art they create.

Consequently, Indigenous art is some of the most elegantly crafted and refined artwork in all of Canada.

But that’s not where this remarkable subject ends; there are plenty of other surprising things to learn. Here are 5 interesting facts about Indigenous art in Canada.

1. Indigenous art is used to enlighten and educate future generations

“A picture is worth a thousand words,” is a cliche we’re all familiar with. However, this quote gets taken and utilized at a totally different level in indigenous art. The images, symbols, colours, etc, are all used to convey a story in visual form.

And depending on the audience, the shapes and designs can take on different meanings as well. This entails that the same piece of art can have a completely different meaning based on who is interpreting it.

2. Indigenous art keeps the culture and its people resilient

The Indigenous people have been through an inordinate amount of strife in the last century -- they have been deprived of so much (land, culture, loved ones, just to name a few of the deep-rooted adversities the Indigenous community face). However, by continuing to create art that is representative of their culture and their roots -- they remain connected to these important aspects of their identity.

It keeps their roots deeply planted, their culture grounded, and their sense of self intact. And it’s this connectivity to their values and virtues that allows them to remain strong and resilient

3. Canadian Indigenous art is very eclectic

This is especially true amongst the prairie provinces during the 19th century. It was at this time that Indigenous art began to expand and evolve in unprecedented ways. For instance, prior to the 19th century, most Indigenous art consisted of compositions on Buffalo hides.

However, as time pressed on, the Indigenous people became more progressive and forward-thinking in the way they approached art creation. This led them to produce moccasins, dresses, shirts, and jackets. Many of these garments were comprised of deer hides and were also decorated with bird feathers, porcupine quills, beads, etc.

And over time, Indigenous art has evolved to incorporate other forms of expressions such as sculptures, paintings, novels, and much more.

4. Canadian Indigenous art is categorized into eras

The Indigenous peoples of Canada and their culture expand so far back that the timeframe is separated and categorized by unique eras. Each period of time represents a distinct advancement in the development of Indigenous art. The three eras of art are as follows:
  • Prehistoric Art
  • Post-Contact Art
  • Contemporary Indigenous Art

Prehistoric Art

The conventional compositions of the prehistoric era are the ones least familiar in Canada. This era of art creation alters in style and can also change depending on the region. These modifications were hastened due to the arrival of agriculture as well as the settlement of villages.

Post-Contact Art

Post-contact art is more prevalent in Canada simply because the history has been documented. Instances of the art have been gathered, outlined, and recorded by missionaries, travelers, explorers and other types of pioneers.

Contemporary Indigenous Art

Contemporary Indigenous art is artwork that was produced between the 1930s and 1940s to the present day.

5. Canadian Indigenous art has gone mainstream

A broad group of Indigenous artists have been doing work that has protruded into the international mainstream conscience! And even though many of them are not seasoned in the conventional methods of First Nations ancestry, they still honour their heritage and have immense respect for their ancestors.

They demonstrate this by using their platform to represent their origins as well as their forefathers.


The Indigenous people of Canada have a rich and dynamic heritage and history. Their ethnic traditions have stood the test of time even against governmental opposition and discrimination. And yet despite all of this, a diverse and culturally enlightening way of life remains intact and continues to shine through and break barriers well into the 21st century.

If you’re interested in supporting the Indigenous community, take a look at some of our indigenous design popular products. Every purchase goes towards assisting Indigenous companies developed and managed by First Nations.

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