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How to Explore Indigenous Cultures in Alberta



You don’t have to travel far in Alberta to experience another culture and see the world from a different perspective. Alberta is vast and diverse, and so are the Indigenous people who have lived here for time immemorial. There are at least 11 different Indigenous languages spoken in the province of Alberta. Each Indigenous group has its own history, culture and traditions, its own knowledge keepers and sacred places. Exploring other cultures is a life-changing experience, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit people in Alberta have incredible stories to tell. Here are a few places where you can experience their fascinating cultures. For more information on CFN's Indigenous Education Program visit centrefornewcomers.ca/indigenous


*Some experiences remain closed due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Be sure to check each experience's official website before heading out.


WRITING-ON-STONE / ÁÍSÍNAI´PI

The Blackfoot name for Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park is “Áísínai´pi,” which means “it is pictured/written.” Located 100 km (62 mi) southeast of Lethbridge, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has the largest collection of First Nation petroglyphs (rock carvings) and pictographs (rock paintings) on the great plains of North America. It also has spectacular sandstone rock formations and unique flora and fauna. The Blackfoot believe the fascinating hoodoo landscape at Áísínai´pi is home to powerful spirits that write their truths on the rocks. In the past, Áísínai´pi was a place where young warriors came to fast and pray on vision quests. The onsite visitor centre is excellent, and you can book tours to see the rock art with park interpreters or go for a hike on your own amongst the remarkable hoodoos.




HEAD-SMASHED-IN BUFFALO JUMP

For nearly 6,000 years, Indigenous hunters used their knowledge of the land and bison behaviour to kill their prey by chasing them over the precipice at Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump. The bison carcasses were carved up in the camp below the cliffs, where vast quantities of skeletons can still be found. This important archeological site in southwest Alberta is one of the world’s oldest and best-preserved buffalo jumps, and it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. You can feel the spirit of the Plains people’s ancient way of life when you visit and tour the cliffs with an Indigenous guide. There’s an excellent onsite museum and wonderful interpretive programs. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump is in traditional Blackfoot territory, which includes three nations – the Siksika, the Kainai (Bloods) and the Piikani (Peigan).




BLACKFOOT CROSSING HISTORICAL PARK

The site where Treaty No. 7 was signed has long been an important gathering place for the Siksika First Nation. Less than an hour’s drive southeast of Calgary, this designated National Historical Site is home to Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, an impressive facility built for the promotion and preservation of the Siksika Nation’s language, culture and traditions. The historical park contains an eco-friendly museum with interactive exhibits, a restaurant where you can sample traditional Indigenous foods and a gift shop with locally made crafts and other products. You may be able to enjoy dance and craft demonstrations, guided tours with a local Siksika interpreter and hikes along the trails outside the facility. For a distinctive cultural experience, step back in time and book an overnight stay in a traditional Blackfoot tipi at Chief Crowfoot's Tipi Village.




MÉTIS CROSSING

Métis are people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Indigenous peoples in Canada. The Métis Nation developed its own language, culture, music, food and traditional ways of living. That unique culture is celebrated and shared through hands-on activities, crafts and food at Métis Crossing, northeast of Edmonton. You can follow costumed interpreters through a traditional harvesting camp and a river lot farmyard complete with traditional homesteads, gardens and real farm animals. There’s an indoor museum, craft and skills demonstrations, a bison paddock and a voyageur canoe experience that lets you step back in time and paddle like the fur traders did. There are also immersive winter experiences that include activities like snowshoeing, stargazing, animal tracking and traditional handicrafts. You can stay overnight in a replica Métis Trapper Tent or in one of the 40 guest rooms in the new lodge that is scheduled to open in the autumn of 2021.




PAINTED WARRIORS RANCH

Located outside Sundre, in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, Painted Warriors Ranch offers a variety of authentic outdoor adventures rooted in Indigenous ways of knowing, learning and experiencing the wilderness. The 82-acre ranch is a good place to learn and experience skills such as animal tracking, snowshoeing, horseback riding, forest walks and archery, as well as multi-day outdoor training programs and equine training. Owners Tracey Klettl and Tim Mearns have been building bridges between cultures, reconnecting their guests with the land and sharing their Ojibway, Cree and Mohawk heritage since 2010. You can spend the night glamping in an authentic Métis Trapper Tent (with meals included) and wake up to views of the Rocky Mountains or visit the ranch for a day tour. Painted Warriors Ranch is the kind of place where visitors go to experience an activity or learn a skill and leave with a greater connection to the land and to themselves. As Klettl says, "The forest reconnects us to a hidden knowledge that has always existed deep within our souls."





source: Travel Alberta

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