With more than 40 First Nations calling Alberta their home and Edmonton housing the second largest number of aboriginal residents in Canada, it’s no surprise to find a thriving selection of aboriginal tourism choices.
History buffs head to the Royal Alberta Museum’s Syncrude Gallery of Aboriginal Culture. Spanning an era of more than 11,000 years and 500 generations, it’s unlike most other exhibitions in Canada: there are more than 3,000 artifacts to see, while recordings and interactive computer technology transport visitors from the last Ice Age to the present.
Fort Edmonton Park provides another excellent opportunity to travel back in time. Experience life as it was in the Hudson’s Bay Company fur-trading fort in 1846; and see what it was like to be on the streets in 1885, 1905 or 1920 as you get up close with the past. The Native Camp right outside the Fort depicts the long association between the Cree and Hudson Bay Company traders where natives supplied traders with food and furs while traders offered manufactured goods.
The Crosses on 105th Street is an historic walking tour that retraces the original steps of the First People of Alberta. It’s also the place to find evidence of burial sites and trading posts. Budget about 2.5 hours for the tour, which requires a minimum of four adults.
The annual Dreamspeakers International Aboriginal & Television Festival, in June, provides an opportunity to learn about aboriginal cultures from around the world and is a rich resource for aboriginal filmmakers, for directors, scriptwriters, technicians, actors, musicians, storytellers, artists and craftspeople.
Just 30 minutes away in historic AMISKWACI (Cree for Beaver Hills) you can stay in wood-floored teepees at this private campground and experience a Sharing Circle, play a native drum, create handicrafts, or learn about native history, culture and spirituality.
A Métis settlement quickly grew up around St. Albert, Alberta’s oldest non-fortified community. The Musée Heritage Museum explores the story of many Métis families and has a Métis genealogy database that can be checked to trace Métis ancestry.
More on the role the Métis played in St. Albert can be found at the Father Lacombe Chapel – restored to look as it did when it was originally built in the 1860s. Find out how Father Albert Lacombe and his Métis helpers constructed a log chapel – Alberta’s oldest building – to serve the new St. Albert Roman Catholic Mission, which became the centre of the thriving French-speaking Métis settlement.
Or visit the Michif Cultural Centre, also in St. Albert, to view a collection of Métis items and a pictorial history. The centre, which includes a library, wants to preserve and protect the culture and heritage of the Métis in Alberta.
The Elk Island Retreat offers teepee and other camping facilities in a unique outdoor setting minutes away from Elk Island National Park. At the retreat clients can enjoy an authentic cultural encounter through its Aboriginal Cultural Awareness Program, which is provided via a partnership with aboriginal resource persons.