Following in their Footsteps: The Nakota Trail of 1877

Editor’s note: Abawashded! June is National Indigenous History Month, an invitation to honour the history, diversity, strength and contemporary achievements of Indigenous peoples.

Written by: Barry Mustus (Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation) and Laura Golebiowski (Aboriginal Consultation Adviser)

Like many Albertans, I have spent a considerable portion of the last year outdoors. I have become better acquainted with my neighbourhood and city parks, and have spent most weekends hiking, camping or cross-country skiing in the mountains. I am grateful to be in a position (both in terms of privilege and location) to access the diverse and beautiful outdoor spaces that our province provides. 

When you recreate outdoors, do you consider whose traditional territory you are on? Do you think about those who walked these trails and enjoyed these landscapes before you?

Barry Mustus does. An Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation member currently based in Whitecourt, Barry has dedicated numerous years to the research and reidentification of a historic Indigenous trail network which extended from Lac Ste. Anne north to Whitecourt and beyond. To date, Barry’s work has focused on a 30 km stretch of trail from the Hamlet of Blue Ridge, southeast of the Town of Whitecourt, to Carson-Pegasus Provincial Park. Referring to the trail as, “The Nakota Trail of 1877” (the year Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation signed an adhesion to Treaty 6), Barry’s efforts strive to demonstrate how Nakota peoples have shaped, and continue to shape, this region of what is now Alberta.

The Stoney people, also referred to as the Assiniboine, have long occupied this area. In 1859, James Hector, a companion of Captain John Palliser, noted a group of Stoney camping at the confluence of the McLeod and Athabasca Rivers, where present-day Whitecourt is located. Earlier still, fur trader Alexander Henry makes mention of a Stoney presence in the Upper Athabasca in 1808. Today, Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation is the most northwestern representative of the Siouan language family and has four reserves: the largest at Glenevis near Wakamne (Lac Ste. Anne) with three satellite reserves at Cardinal River, Elk River and Whitecourt.

Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation Family, Peter Alexis and Wife, Lac Ste Anne. Unknown photographer or date. Source: Library and Archives Canada. 
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Reciprocity and Renewal: The Blackfoot Seasonal Round

Written by: Blair First Rider and Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Advisers

Oki! For many of us, the spring season represents new life and a fresh start. But did you know, in Blackfoot culture, the new year begins in the spring? Aboriginal Consultation Advisers Blair First Rider and Laura Golebiowski, both based in Treaty 7, discuss the significance of the seasonal round: a concept that not only structures the year, but also our relationships to the land and one another.

We meet today on Kainai Nation at an area called Weasel Fat Bottom, a flood plain on the south side of the Oldman River. These flats also served as an ideal traditional camping location, with proximity to water, cottonwood tree stands and grazing areas. The trees provide shelter from the wind, and beneath them medicinal plants and berries grow. We are here to learn about the seasonal round: a concept that has guided the travel, occupation and relationships of the Niitsitapi (how the Blackfoot refer to themselves, translating to “the real people”) since time immemorial, and one that still has important teachings today.

Blair First Rider stands in front of a modern medicine wheel, built during a recent Blackfoot Confederacy gathering. Source: Laura Golebiowski.

In the old days, Sky Being Ksisstsi’ko’m (Thunder) gave the Niitsitapi the Thunder Medicine Pipe Bundle. The pipe offered protection, as well as a promise that Ksisstsi’ko’m would bring the rains that would make the berries grow large and ripe. Accordingly, the new year is marked by the first clap of thunder of the first rainstorm. It is commemorated with ceremony: the gathering of the seven Societies and the opening of the sacred bundles. Through prayer, song and dance, the relationships and commitments between Niitsitapi and the Creator, the Sky Beings and the land, are renewed and affirmed. As Betty Bastien wrote in Blackfoot Ways of Knowing: the Worldview of the Siksikaitsitapi, “During these ceremonies we acknowledge and give thanks to our alliances for another cycle. We ask for continued protection, prosperity, long life, growth, and strength.”

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Reverting Colonial Cartography: Searching for Drift-Pile Camp

Written by: Karl Giroux, Consultation Director, Driftpile Cree Nation and Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Adviser

Editor’s note: On July 24, 2018, Driftpile Cree Nation conducted a site visit with representatives of the Historic Resources Management Branch. The purpose of the site visit was to identify the “Drift-Pile Camp” referenced in the journal of George Mercer Dawson, as he traveled what is now Alberta for the Geological Survey of Canada in the late 1800s. Below, Laura Golebiowski (Aboriginal Consultation Adviser, Historic Resources Management Branch) and Karl Giroux (Consultation Director with Driftpile Cree Nation) share their experiences visiting the location.

“The Athabasca River derives its name from the great lake into which it flows, which is called A-pē-pas-kow by the Crees. The upper part of the river is known as Mas-ta-hi-sī-pī or Great River.

On reaching its north bank on our traverse from Sturgeon Lake, Mr. MacLeod and I had arranged to separate, Mr. MacLeod continuing on overland toward Dirt Lake, while I intended to make a canoe and descend the river. As no traces had yet been found of the party which was supposed to be on the way from Edmonton to meet us, we now set fire to a great pile of drift-logs on one of the bars, and sent one Indian up and another down the river to seek for information, but all with no result. It was further unexpectedly found that no cottonwood trees suitable for making a canoe existed in the valley, and as the river was evidently quite unsuited to be descended on a raft, by reason of its swiftness and the number of shoal bars which occur now on one side and now on the other, it became difficult to know in what way the programme could be carried out. It was finally decided to use the canvass cargo-covers and blanket wrapped in the construction of a canoe. To this all hands devoted themselves for three days, when we had the satisfaction of seeing a large canoe, properly framed and strengthened, which when painted over with a mixture of bacon fat and spruce gum was nearly water-tight.”

The above text is taken from George Mercer Dawson’s 1881 Report on Exploration from Port Simpson on the Pacifica Coast to Edmonton on the Saskatchewan. George Dawson was a Nova Scotia-born geographer who conducted numerous expeditions for the Geological Survey of Canada, beginning in 1875 until his unexpected death in 1901.

George Dawson LAC
George Mercer Dawson, then Assistant Director of the Geological Survey of Canada in May 1885. Source: Library and Archives Canada.

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“Our record in stone”: Blackfoot perspectives of Okotoks

Written by: Blair First Rider and Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Advisers

Editor’s note: Oki! June is National Indigenous History Month, an invitation to honour the history, diversity, strength and contemporary achievements of Indigenous peoples. Aboriginal Consultation Advisers Blair First Rider and Laura Golebiowski, both based in Treaty 7 territory, met at the Okotoks Erratic this spring to discuss the significance of the site to the Blackfoot Confederacy.

IMG_5666
Blair First Rider at the Okotoks Erratic.

If you’ve ever travelled southwest of Calgary and witnessed a towering mass of quartzite stand out among the prairie landscape, you are continuing a tradition that Indigenous peoples have done since time immemorial. The 16,500-tonne boulder is colloquially known as the “Big Rock,” but in Blackfoot it is Okotoks—the direct translation of the word “rocks.”

The erratic is a wildly impressive and imposing sight. However, there is more here than immediately meets the eye. For the Blackfoot, this is a location where the world began; where supernatural mischief-maker Napi was pursued by the rock as he traveled from south to north, creating the mountains and rivers.

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It’s Métis Week!

Commemorated annually in Alberta, Métis Week remembers the efforts and execution of Louis Riel, while also celebrating the historical and contemporary achievements of Métis people working toward rights and recognition of their Nation.

Many of the historical resources, sites and museums across Alberta contain Métis connections and stories. As the owners and managers of many of these sites, the Heritage Division strives to foster partnerships and collaborations with community to ensure that these stories are told accurately and respectfully. We also recognize how significant it is when these heritage places are owned and managed by Indigenous peoples and communities themselves. In honour of Métis Week, we are pleased to share the work of the team at Métis Crossing, who recently celebrated the ground-breaking at their new gathering centre, slated to open next fall.

Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive centre in Alberta and began as a major initiative of the Métis Nation of Alberta. Their mission is to be a premiere center for Alberta Métis cultural interpretation, education, gatherings, and business development. The 512-acre site is designed to engage and excite visitors, and is comprised of river lot titles from the original Métis settlers who arrived in the late 1800’s. Their programming encourages active participation of visitors in activities that promote appreciation of Métis people, customs, and celebrations. Read more

Creating Connections: Paul First Nation History

Today, RETROactive is pleased to feature a community-created heritage project!

The Paul First Nation History website and Facebook page is the brainchild of Jaelin Rask. A Paul First Nation member who today lives on-reserve, Jaelin was raised primarily in Calgary, geographically and culturally-distanced from his Indigenous heritage. As an adult, Jaelin received a number of historical documents from his late paternal grandfather, David Bird (who served as Chief of Paul First Nation from 1952 to 1955), spurring his interest in genealogy and his father’s family history.

Jaelin Rask (Photo provided by: Jaelin Rask).

“Little by little” Jaelin’s document collection grew, aided by trips to the archives and conversations with community members. Word of his work travelled fast throughout the Nation, and Jaelin found his social media inboxes full of requests Read more

National Indigenous Peoples Day 2018

Aanii! Tânsi! Óki! Abawasded! Edlónat’e! Tawnshi! * Da Neh Chi?**

Tomorrow, the Historic Resources Management Branch is glad to celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day. Held each year on June 21 and renamed last year from National Aboriginal Day, National Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes the historic and present-day contributions, success and cultures of First Nation, Inuit and Metis communities across Canada.

Edmonton is once again hosting the free-to-attend Indigenous Peoples Festival, this year in Victoria Park from 11:00 AM to 8:00 PM. The event includes a pow-wow, main stage concerts, artisan marketplace and food vendors. There are also events throughout the week at City Centre Mall, Edmonton International Airport and the Art Gallery of Alberta (free admission on June 21 for all visitors as well!).

In Calgary, there are performances, displays and workshops at both the National Music Centre’s Studio Bell and Arts Commons, or venture west to take in the parade in Canmore or an evening medicine walk at the Banff Centre with Metis guide Brenda Holder. In southern Alberta, Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump is offering special programming, with opportunities for guided tours, performances, food sampling, and story sharing with Blackfoot Elders.

There are celebrations in communities across the province: check this listing to find the gathering closest to you. Is your community hosting an event for National Indigenous Peoples Day? Leave a comment on this post with the details!

On this day, and all days, we express our gratitude to the Indigenous communities in Alberta that we have the privilege of learning from and working with. Your history, culture, stories, goals and perspectives make our understanding of Alberta’s heritage so much richer.

Written By: Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Adviser

* “Hello!” in Anishinaabemowin, Cree, Blackfoot, Nakoda, Dene and Michif

** “How are you” in Beaver

Title Image: Driftpile Cree Nation Pow Wow. Photo credit: Ron Ganzeveld, Government of Alberta.

Red Deer Industrial School Monument Unveiled

During the past three weeks the Spanish influenza has swept through this institution. I regret to report that as a result, five of our pupils are dead: Georgina House, Jane Baptiste, Sarah Soosay, David Lightning, William Cardinal…At the time the children died practically everyone was sick so that it was impossible for us to bury the dead. I thought the best thing to do was to have the undertaker from Red Deer take charge of and bury the bodies. This was done, and they now lie buried in Red Deer.”

These words, written by then-Principal Joseph F. Woodsworth to the department of Indian Affairs, now also appear in the Red Deer City Cemetery, on a monument commemorating the lives of four of the five young men and women who passed away on November 15 and 16, 1918, while attending Red Deer Industrial School[1]. Until now, their names and resting places within the Red Deer City Cemetery had remained largely unmarked and their stories untold. Read more

National Aboriginal Day 2017

Photo Credit: Travel Alberta/Sean Thonson

Happy National Aboriginal Day!

National Aboriginal Day was announced in 1996 by, then Governor General of Canada, Roméo LeBlanc on June 21st—the summer solstice. This week, and throughout the month of June, we recognize and celebrate the achievements and contributions of Indigenous Peoples in what is today known as Alberta and Canada. During this year of celebrating the 150th anniversary of Canadian confederation, it is particularly important to remember the First Peoples who came before, and the thriving, contemporary First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities that continue to shape our country today.

Edmontonians are invited for stew and bannock at the Bissell Centre from 10:00AM – 2:00PM, or enjoy the day-long Aboriginal Day Live festivities at Victoria Park.

Live in Calgary? The University of Calgary is hosting a campfire chat on St. Patrick’s Island, discussing Indigenous perspectives of the cosmos through traditional storytelling, or spend your Saturday at the Family Day Festival and Powwow at the Stampede grounds.

Events are taking place throughout the week and across the province. Join us in taking the time to connect with our community, learn from one another and reflect on what it means to be a Canadian and Treaty person during this summer of celebration.

Event Listings:

Indigenous Relations’ 2017 National Aboriginal Day Events in Alberta: http://indigenous.alberta.ca/documents/NAD-Events-Alberta-June-2017.pdf?0.1319647190237596

City of Edmonton’s National Aboriginal Day Community Events: https://www.edmonton.ca/attractions_events/schedule_festivals_events/national-aboriginal-day.aspx

Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary: http://www.aawc.ca

Written By: Laura Golebiowski (Aboriginal Consultation Adviser)

National Aboriginal Day 2016

Photo Credit: Government of Alberta
Photo Credit: Government of Alberta

The Historic Resources Management Branch is privileged to work with and learn from Indigenous communities in Alberta. On June 21, we join Canadians nation-wide in celebrating National Aboriginal Day. Now in its 20th official year, National Aboriginal Day provides an opportunity for Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike to come together in recognition of the histories, cultures and contributions of First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples in our province and across the country. Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) has put together a great video to celebrate the 20th Anniversary.

Whether you take in a film at Edmonton’s Amiskwaciy History Series’ Film Festival, check out the festivities at Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, visit the Friendship Centre in your community or commemorate the day in your own way, take the time to remember: we are all Treaty people.

A listing of 2016 National Aboriginal Day events in Alberta can be found here.

Written By: Laura Golebiowski, Aboriginal Consultation Advisor