Voices of the Past.
Tour a traditional longhouse, learn about potlatch ceremonies and visit beautifully carved totem poles and a life-sized model Haida village at the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver. A place of beauty and serenity on a bluff overlooking the ocean, the museum is also home to one of the world's largest collections of Northwest coast aboriginal art, including towering totems and awesome bronze sculptures (604/822-3825 or www.moa.ubc.ca).
* Explore thousands of years of prehistory, from an ancient bison kill site to a northern fishing camp to medicine wheels and a spectacular sun-dance ceremony, at the Provincial Museum of Alberta in Edmonton. A story of survival and triumph is brought to vivid life in the museum's immense Syncrude Gallery of Aboriginal Culture, thanks to recorded voices, video, aboriginal interpreters, more than 3,000 artefacts and cutting-edge computer technology (780/453-9100 or www.pma.edmonton.ab.ca).
* Relive a time when people followed the great buffalo herds, when preparing food and shelter meant pounding berries and meat and scraping hides for tepees. The Luxton Museum of the Plains Indian in Banff reveals the extraordinary history of the Indians of the Northern Plains and Canadian Rockies, a culture rich in elaborate ceremonies, dances, songs and legends associated with nature and the spirit world (403/762-2388 or collections.ic.gc.ca/luxton).
* In Regina, experience 10,000 years of human history at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum's awesome First Nations Gallery. Listen to elders speak about respect for the land and its resources, visit a tepee encampment in early winter and learn about the excitement and hard work of a bison kill (306/787-2815 or www.royalsaskmuseum.ca).
* Explore the remarkable lives of trappers and traders in the new Hudson's Bay Company Gallery at the Manitoba Museum of Man and Nature in Winnipeg. Spanning three centuries of the company's history, the gallery's vibrant tableaux and historical relics paint a picture of early commerce and exploration. A stunning collection of aboriginal, Metis and Inuit artefacts brings to life the spirit and legacy of this amazing era (204/956-2830 or www.manitobamuseum.mb.ca).
* Marvel at the world's largest and finest collection of totem poles in the Grand Hall of the Canadian Museum of civilization in Hull. Then visit the First Peoples Hall, a magnificent exhibition gallery devoted to celebrating the cultural, historical and artistic accomplishments of aboriginal peoples in Canada (1-800-555-5621 or www.civilization.ca).
* Learn about ancient ways of life, arts, cultures and traditions through the McCord Museum's outstanding collection of First Nations objects. This Montreal museum - located right in the heart of the city -- possesses some 13,000 aboriginal artefacts, from clothing and accessories to tools and hunting weaponry (514/398-7100 or www.mccord-museum.qc.ca).
Close to Nature
Outdoor museums dedicated to aboriginal history allow visitors to experience first-hand the lifestyle of another era. Here are some good bets:
* The Secwepemc Museum and Heritage Park, a full-scale reconstruction of a traditional Shuswap Nation winter village in KAMLOOPS, features traditional dwellings, the remains of a 2,000-year-old village and exhibits of clothing and implements (250/828-9801 or www.secwepemc.org).
* Set in a peaceful valley near SASKATOON, Wanuskewin Heritage Park is laced with self-guided trails that link 19 archaeological sites indicating some 6,000 years of Northern Plains Indian habitation, from buffalo jumps to tepee rings (306/931-6767 or www.wanuskewin.com).
* The rich history of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in First Nation is passed on in a variety of innovative ways at the new Tr'ondek Hwech'in Cultural Centre in DAWSON CITY (1-800-789-8566 or www.touryukon.com).