Amiskwaciy Waskahikan: Indigenous Experiences in Edmonton

By Mackenzie Brown
Jun 18, 2023

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.

Participate in Indigenous Peoples Celebrations and Festivities

Every year, there are several Indigenous festivals that take place in Edmonton. If you’re a cinematography fanatic or love Indigenous performing arts, don’t miss the Dreamspeakers International Film Festival and Rubaboo Theatre Theatre Festival. Edmonton is also lucky enough to have its very own annual Edmonton Indigenous Peoples Festival put on by the Canadian Native Friendship Centre of Edmonton. In past years, this festival held the world's largest round dance!

Catch all the celebrations put on throughout Edmonton for National Indigenous Peoples Day on June 21 of each year. There are several celebrations taking place every year at Canada Place, Enoch Cree Nation, Métis Crossing, the Edmonton International Airport, and Bent Arrow Healing Society just to name a few!

Finally, check out the awesome Indigenous villages at festivals such as Silver Skate Festival, Flying Canoë Volant, Deep Freeze Festival and KDays!

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.

Order an Indigenous Box

Indigenous Box is a subscription service that helps you fall in love with fabulous Indigenous-made products from across Turtle Island! Choose from the seasonal plan (4 boxes per year), buy a single box, or send a box as a gift. Each special package contains a selection of unique items from Indigenous brands, artists and artisans.

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.

Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park

Fort Edmonton Park's Indigenous Peoples Experience will leave you in awe. Gather and explore life through the diversity of First Nations' and Métis peoples' histories, experiences, and perspectives, local to Indigenous life in the Beaver Hills region. 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.

Pe Metawe Games

Pe Metawe Games is an Indigenous-owned game store and community gaming space located on Alberta Avenue. Selling a mix of board games and RPGs, they welcome players of all abilities and from all groups. Come by or shop online and discover a modern classic or an indie favourite. Plus, they offer local delivery and shipping nationally. Book one of the two private rooms outfitted with flat-screen televisions and custom gaming tables with seating for six.

ᐁ ᐱᒥᐦᐋᔦᕁ ê-pimihâyahk

The Alberta Aviation Museum is excited to be embarking on a new art installation exhibit collaboration with amiskwaciy Academy. ᐁ ᐱᒥᐦᐋᔦᕁ ê-pimihâyahk (we are all flying together). This new art installation comes to fruition through the artistry of the students of amiskwaciy Academy, with guidance from Stephanie Sakkab, kanihtâwisimot maskwa onîmihitow & kêhtêyah Darlene Johnson. Witness this masterful artwork on display in the museum gallery!

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.

Take a tour with Talking Rock Tours

Experience the geologic wonders of Alberta and immerse yourself in the Indigenous stories of the past! Talking Rock Tours provides interactive experiences that reveal the history of the land with a Métis guide and geologist who combines his culture and knowledge of geology. You'll see Edmonton's landscapes in a whole new light!

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.

Savour Indigenous Cuisine

The city's incredible Indigenous chefs are creating delicious and inventive food that will have your licking your plate clean. Check out our guide to some of Edmonton's culinary trailblazers.

For more delicious Indigenous cuisine, check out:

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!

Listen to Music by Local Artists

Edmonton is home to world-class talent, and much of it belongs to Indigenous artists. It's easy to make a playlist of local Indigenous musicians to listen to. Juno-nominated artists such as Celeigh Cardinal and Nêhiyawak make Edmonton their home along with some other incredible Indigenous musicians including Jay Gilday, Geraldine Carriere, Rellik, and more.

Check out 89.3 The Raven for a collection of events, award shows, resources, and programming supporting Indigenous artists and communities. CFWE Radio also has an event calendar with a thorough listing of world-class programming to discover.

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.

Métis 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. Here, you can Paddle into the Past with a voyageur canoe experience, or explore the 'Visions, Hopes, and Dreams' at Métis Crossing Wildlife Tour. The wildlife park is home to rare white bison, wood bison, plains bison, elk, and Percheron horses.

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.