Languages and Lands of Indigenous Alberta
Wisdom with Warrior Women
The four hour drive from the Edmonton airport to Jasper offered the first glimpse of the breadth of the adventure that lay ahead. Starting out on farm and grasslands, the road began to change near Hinton, AB. This is where the Rocky Mountains become more apparent. As the terrain grew rugged, I started to keep an eye out for moose, elk, bighorn sheep, bears and wolves.
After checking into the Fairmont Jasper Park we headed for dinner at the Hearthstone Lounge at the Forest Park Hotel. Then it was time to settle in for an Evening Fireside Chat with Warrior Women.
Through drumming, song and stories, Matrica Brown leads discussions that include teaching Cree phrases and talking about contemporary Indigenous issues. Feeling like a cross between an Ask Me Anything discussion and a warmly spiritual evening—the Fireside Chat turned out to be a unique opportunity to drop my defenses and learn more about reconciliation from Matrica’s wise and gentle perspective.
Day two started with the first of two adventures with Metis guide Joe Urie of Jasper Tour Company. Joe has such a unique and in-depth story to tell, that setting out across the land is the best way to absorb all that he has to say. With the Maligne Valley Adventure, Joe takes visitors on a hike out of the Athabasca Valley and up into the sub valley of the Maligne. Along the way, Joe shares what he’s learned about voices of the mountains, the rivers, the plants and animals as well as his wide-ranging thoughts on broader Indigenous issues.
Later in the day, after a leisurely lunch and a chance to explore and shop in Jasper, it was time to head back out with Jasper Tour Company on a combination walk/drive Wildlife Adventure. This interpretive tour builds on the morning hike by adding in the opportunity to spot bear, elk, coyote, sheep, wolves and moose. With each sighting (or great viewpoint with a potential sighting) Joe teaches more about the animals, the mountain eco-system that supports them and their connection to Indigenous cultures.
Meet the Metis
On day three, a five hour drive through the mountains and across the plains took us to Metis Crossing; a cultural centre on the banks of the North Saskatchewan River. After a hearty lunch in the gathering centre we were guided by Lilyrose Meyers, a Métis Knowledge holder who uses songs and stories to teach about the Métis people and the culture’s strong connection to the land. Setting off on a riverside trail, she showed us how to identify traditional plants and explained how the Métis people used them. At the end of the tour we headed inside for the opportunity to try our hands at a traditional craft.
Next up we headed to head to Pine Creek Stopping House and Retreat with Clayton Didier before returning for dinner at the gathering centre. As it grew dark and I settled into my room at the new 40-room boutique lodge designed by Métis architect Tiffany Shaw-Collinge— I was told to keep an eye on the night sky, as the region’s darkness makes it perfect for star gazing and maybe even spotting the northern lights.
Day four started with a leisurely riverside breakfast in the bistro before setting off for a tour of Visions, Hopes and Dreams at Métis Crossing Wildlife Park. The park came about because of a unique partnership between Metis Crossing and a non-Indigenous neighbour named Len Hrehorets; and it’s led to the return of plains bison to their traditional stomping ground. Going well beyond an opportunity to get an up-close view of rare white bison, elk, and traditional Percheron horses, our tour through the park taught me about the connection between the Metis culture and ‘les bufloo’ as well as the animals’ importance to grassland ecosystems.
After a lunch that included Saskatoon berry lemonade and bison burgers, we drove back to Edmonton for dinner with Pei Pei Chei Ow, a food and education company based in Amiskwacîwâskahikan Treaty 6 territory, led by Mushkego Cree chef Scott Iserhoff. Chef Scott infuses his dinner menu with traditional foods and personal stories making it the kind of intimate, meaningful and delicious dining experience that perfectly wrapped up our adventure.
Following dinner we checked into River Cree Resort and Casino for a relaxing evening and a chance to think back over the previous days.
departure at YEG (2 nonstop flights to YUL – 6:00a & 12:15p)