Peoples & Cultures

Cape Breton – Unama’ki is world-renowned for its breathtaking natural landscape and safe, friendly communities.  People are drawn to the region’s living cultures – its Mi’kmaw, Celtic, and Acadian history and traditions. International festivals, museums, national historic sites, and major cultural events contribute to the richness of life on the Island. 

Cape Breton – Unama’ki has a diverse cultural background with a unique ancestry of more than 30 cultures including: Mi’kmaw, Acadian, Celtic, African, Irish and more. These living cultures are expressed through foods, music, storytelling, dancing, and much more.

The Island is home to an extensive network of national heritage sites, museums and adventure tourism.

Known for its phenomenal music, dance, theatre, cuisine and the visual arts, Cape Breton – Unama’ki and the people of the Island continue to honour age-old traditions while going above and beyond to welcome new people from across the country and around the world. 

The Island’s industrial history attracted a rich mosaic of people from all around the world to work at the Sydney Steel mill and in the Island’s many coal mines. As such our history is steeped in heritage from countries including Poland, Italy, Jamaica, Ukraine, and The Netherlands to name a few.

Mi’kmaw

Cape Breton – Unama’ki is home to five Mi’kmaw communities: Eskasoni, Membertou, Wagmatcook, We’koqma’q, and Potlotek First Nations. The original inhabitants of Cape Breton – Unama’ki, these thriving communities continue to teach and share their land with us all. Cape Breton University’s Unama’ki College provides extensive knowledge and resources. From faculty and staff that speak Mi’kmaw to academic courses delivered in Mi’kmaw communities, Unama’ki College has many offerings for learners and knowledge-seekers.

Acadian

Acadians have lived on Cape Breton – Unama’ki for more than 400 years. Their Francophone history is intrinsic to the Island, with Acadian communities and individuals now found across the Island, including the communities that surround both Chéticamp and Isle Madame. Notably, both Le Centre de la Mi-Carême (The Mi-⁠Carême Interpretive Centre) in Grand Étang and Centre La Picasse in Petit-de-Grat offer excellent cultural programming focused on Acadian culture and history, and two campuses of l’Université Sainte-Anne. Destination Cape Breton also outlines some Acadian experiences you won’t want to miss!

Celtic

With proud Celtic heritage found in every corner of Cape Breton – Unama’ki, many institutions on the Island (such as Colaisde na Gàidhlig / The Gaelic College, located in St. Ann’s and Baile nan Gàidheal / Highland Village in Iona) celebrate, honour, and teach Celtic cultural expressions including the performing arts, language, dance, and the production of traditional crafts and tools.

Our language section of this website provides more information and links for learning, French, Mi’kmaq, English and Celtic.

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Last Modified: October 1, 2021