Daphne Cockwell Gallery of Canada: First Peoples | Level 1

  • Birchbark canoes were part of an essential transportation system to many First Peoples, and later, to European voyageurs and settlers. Different styles and types help define function and versatility in a sometimes unforgiving climate.
  • Trace the legendary Sitting Bull's journey to Canada.
  • BMO Financial Group Theatre, located within the gallery.
  • Inuit child's summer bonnet, made of caribou skin decorated with beadwork.
  • Paul Kane's works have created an iconic chronicle of indigenous life during the 19th century.

Providing cultural context for Canada's First Peoples

Created with the advice of Native advisors, this gallery explores the cultures and traditions of Canada’s First Peoples. Collections examine the history of engagement between indigenous peoples and Euro-Canadian settlers, early fears that indigenous peoples and cultures were vanishing, and indigenous cultural expressions as they have changed over time and continue to change today.

The continuing legacy of Canada's First Peoples comes alive in this multi-layered gallery that discusses the complex relationship between past traditions and present life, the work of collectors who sought to document the unique experiences of Aboriginal cultures, the development of museums where First Peoples’ material culture could be preserved, and through contemporary art, provide a sense of what it means to be a person of Aboriginal ancestry in the contemporary world. European contact brought much change to Aboriginal culture, but with this contact came new materials, new markets, and new opportunities for Aboriginal cultural expression.

Explore a rich cultural legacy embodied in artifacts devoted to travel, subsistence, family life, the spiritual world, and artistic expressions.  Space devoted to rotating exhibitions brings First Peoples' contemporary works into focus and multimedia spaces allow visitors to hear and savour their rich oral culture. Included is a  circular theatre devoted to the screening of films and live performances by Canada’s First Peoples. With more than 1,000 artifacts, up to 80 percent of which are rotated for preservation purposes, this vital gallery will continually feature new displays on different Native peoples.

About the Gallery


More than 1,000 artifacts provide a cultural context for Canada's First Peoples and examine the economic and social forces that have influenced Native culture and art.


Canada, west to the Pacific Ocean, north to the Arctic, east to the Atlantic, with some artifacts from cultures in Alaska and south of the Canada-United States border.


From Pre-European times to the present day.

ROM Staff

Heidi Sobol

Senior Conservator, Paintings

Picture of Sadia in a winter jacket

Managing Director, ROM Canada

Authored by: Noman Siddiqui