Amiskwaciy Waskahikan: Indigenous Experiences in Edmonton

By Mackenzie Brown
Jul 27, 2020

The traditional name of Edmonton is Amiskwaciy Waskahikan, meaning Beaver Hills House. This place was the traditional meeting ground for many Indigenous communities, including the Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota Sioux, Blackfoot and the Métis Peoples. During the time of the fur trade, Edmonton became a hub for the Hudson’s Bay company. Many Indigenous groups reside here, and the history of the land is long and vibrant.

Here are the top experiences related to the Indigenous history of the land ranging from museums, to parks and everything in between! For more Indigenous landmarks and spaces in Edmonton, check out our guide here.

Some of the events, experiences, and attractions listed here may be offering modified services at this time. Please check the business' individual website or social media for the latest details. No matter how you explore, be sure to continue practicing safe physical distance, frequent hand washing, and following the guidelines put in place to keep everyone safe.

The Royal Alberta Museum

Since the Royal Alberta Museum’s opening in its new location, the Human History Hall has been created, showcasing the stories of the past and present in Alberta. The Royal Alberta Museum holds over 18,000 historical artifacts from various Nations. The Human History Hall is a beautiful representation of both historical and contemporary Indigenous stories in Alberta. The museum also holds the Manitou Asinîy, a sacred meteorite believed to hold great power and significance to many Indigenous communities. Be sure to book your visit in advance!

Elk Island National Park

Traditionally, Indigenous lands covered large areas. Specifically, in the Edmonton region Indigenous groups were primarily nomadic, meaning they moved across the land, following their food source– the bison. Many Indigenous groups' traditional areas stretched from Edmonton all the way to Elk Island National Park.

Elk Island National Park is one of the first national parks to sell authentic Indigenous and locally made work in their Visitor Information Centre. The park works hard to create connections with surrounding communities to hold beadwork, art and much more for purchase.

You can also experience Cree craft workshops on select days throughout the summer by Cree-Ative Designs, a Cree mother-daughter duo.

Note: the Visitor Centre at Elk Island is temporarily closed. Stay tuned for further updates as park services gradually reopen.

Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park

Fort Edmonton Park is back after undergoing a massive expansion project to create a larger-than-life historical experience for visitors. The brand new Indigenous Peoples Experience is an awe-inspiring new addition to the park's exciting offerings. Gather and explore life through the diversity of First Nations' and Métis Peoples' histories and perspectives. The stories, music, artwork, and text in the experience come from local Indigenous perspectives and voices, gathered through engagement with local Indigenous communities and research.

Bearclaw Gallery

Do you love Indigenous fine art? Then the Bearclaw Gallery is a must-see. The Bearclaw gallery carries a variety of Canadian First Nations, Métis and Inuit art– from paintings, to sculptures to crafts and gifts. This gallery also features works from internationally acclaimed Indigenous artists including Alex Janvier, Maxine Noel, Norval Morriseau, Aaron Paquette, Jason Carter and more!

Indigenous Garden at the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens

At the University of Alberta’s Botanic Gardens, you will find the beautiful Indigenous Garden. This garden is full of plants, herbs and medicines used by Indigenous peoples for centuries! Be sure to take a walk around and look at the many story plaques outlining traditional plant uses, medicinal properties and more. Remember to book your visit in advance!

Take a tour with Talking Rock Tours

Edmonton's own Keith Diakiw is a Métis guide and geologist who infuses his Métis culture and knowledge of geology to make fun, interactive tours that tell the story of the land. He currently offers tours of the Edmonton Oil and Gas industry, Edmonton’s stunning river valley and Elk Island National Park. Come experience the geologic wonders of Alberta and immerse yourself in the Indigenous stories of our past!

Join them for their Edmonton River Valley Discovery Tour in partnership with Big E Tours. You will see the North Saskatchewan River valley in a completely different light after this walking experience!

Wase Saba Experiences

Experience a part of Indigenous culture through Wase Saba Experiences. Sissy Thiessen is a Treaty 6 Nakota Sioux, Cree & German Indigenous cultural facilitator, Powwow dancer, crafter/beader, spoken word poet and creative writer from Edmonton, Alberta. Book an experience or check out her event calendar to see Sissy in action around Edmonton.

Michif Cultural Connections

Located just outside of Edmonton in St. Albert, you'll find Michif Cultural Connections. Michif Cultural Connections provides Métis programming and workshops including moccasin making, jigging classes, traditional finger weaving, Michif language classes and an exhibit of Métis artifacts at the historic Juneau House. The house is also home to an established library of Métis archival documents and has a gift shop to purchase a variety of Métis arts and crafts!

ReSkilled Life

Join ReSkilled Life to learn about building the foundation of a life that is connected with nature, each other, and our inner voices. ReSkilled Life offers a variety of online and in-person experiences from traditional hide tanning, Metis beading, moccasin and mukluk making and even cheese making! As an Indigenous woman, Natalie seeks to bring her traditions, stories, and culture to life in the center. In her Metis culture, being a bridge between two worlds is a longstanding value. With this as a firm guiding light, ReSkilled Life offers both domestic homesteading and wild crafting focused workshops.

Metis Crossing

Take a day-trip to Métis Crossing and discover how the Métis lived as trappers, learn about historical families and their homes, understand how plants are used as medicine and much more. Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive centre in Alberta, sitting on 512 acres of land designed to engage visitors in immersive experiences. This incredible facility mirrors the core values of the Métis community including self-sufficiency, respect of elders, participation of youth, and cultural pride.

About the Author

Mackenzie Brown is First Nations Cree from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, currently residing in Amiskwaciwaskahikan, Edmonton. She is a performer, drummer, tourism entrepreneur, philanthropist and advocate for at-risk youth in the Edmonton area. Mackenzie and her mom perform as “Warrior Women”. They drum and teach around Alberta for the Northern Alberta Teachers Conference, the annual Jasper Dark Skies Festival, Youth Dream Catchers Conference, Canada Day, Aboriginal Day festivities and more. Along with drumming, Mackenzie is also an avid acrylic artist and traditional First Nations crafts artisan. Her art has been featured in the Pump House Gallery, the Edson Gallery Museum, the Gray Gallery Grant MacEwan, recognized for the Alberta Indian Arts and Crafts Award of 2017, featured for the Alberta Business Competition 2017 and sold to people travelling world wide at Jasper Park Lodge. She is also the recent recipient of the 2019 Esquao Award for Children's Future.