Exploring the Métis People of Alberta

The Métis people have a unique identity distinct from the Indigenous and European roots of Canada; they are considered one of the three groups of aboriginals in Canada. The original Métis people were the offspring of the indigenous women and fur traders of European descent situated in the Red River area, the area now known as Manitoba.

The word Métis is a French term that means ‘mixed’ and can be used to describe anyone of mixed descent. They were responsible for establishing the first trade relationships between Canada and Europe thus advancing trade relations between these two communities. This cultural blend contributed to their local language known as the French Cree. 

The history of the Métis culture dates as far back as the 17th century;  they were known for their distinctive clothing, art, festive music, and dance.  They were also highly skilled in the art of fishing, hunting, and fur trapping.

What symbols represent the Métis culture?

The Métis flag is symbolic of a nation that displays its heritage with pride. This red and blue flag with an infinity symbol on it represents the blending of two cultures who have remained an established nation in Canada to this day. Several other things that were unique to the Métis culture that include:  

The Red River Cart  - the Red River Cart was a means of mobility for these resourceful people who traveled for miles on end along the Plains transporting food and other resources.

The Red River Jig -  skilled in the arts and dance, the Red River Jig was a fanciful traditional Métis dance comprising intricate dance steps accompanied by the sound of European music that they created with the use of cleverly designed fiddles.

The Métis Sash - The Métis Sash (like the Métis flag) is one of the most prominent symbols of the Métis culture. This brightly woven garment is also worn as a symbol of pride and identity to honor this enduring culture.

Indigenous Tourism Alberta

Indigenous Tourism Alberta is dedicated to providing a rich cultural experience for tourists and locals alike to experience the culturally diverse history of Canada, specifically the history of the indigenous people known as the First Nations, the Métis, and the Inuit, the first indigenous settlers on the North American plains.

Indigenous Tourism Alberta honors and respects the eight settlements of the Métis nation, the homelands of the Métis, as well as the six Métis regions of Alberta, together with other traditional treaties that belong to the indigenous people of Alberta.

The eight settlements unique to the Métis people include Buffalo Lake, East Prairie, Elizabeth Fishing Lake, Gift Lake, Kikino, and Paddle Prairie and Peavine which form part of the recognized indigenous territories of Alberta.

Indigenous Travel Association of Canada

The Indigenous Travel Association of Canada aims to enhance the thirteen indigenous regions of Canada through economic developments, increase of tourism events, training and skills development, and the provision of the latest research and information for industry-specific trades in the indigenous communities.

The Indigenous Travel Association of Canada has now just introduced unique travel experiences that highlight and take visitors on a unique travel experience back in time. Through activities based on the life and times of indigenous people, The Indigenous Travel Association of Canada aims to highlight the values of honor, cultural pride, and loyalty of the Métis people that still influence our Canadian heritage today.

One culture in particular, the Métis, greatly influenced the various practices that advanced the homelands and territories into productive prospering economic hubs. The Métis people exhibited a harmonious blend of two very different cultures from different lands coming together to work as one.

The Métis people were lively people who enjoyed living in the moment. As much as they were focused on sustaining and growing their communities through the development of ingenious hunting-gathering and fur trapping methods, they also greatly valued the importance of family and friendship and were known for their storytelling, dancing style (known as the traditional Red River Jig), and music and were highly skilled at playing the fiddle.

Points of interest to discover more about the Métis people

The Métis Nation of Alberta is an institution that is dedicated to honoring the traditions and culture of the Métis Nation. Through various educational and community-based programs, their goal has been to preserve, uphold, and improve the living conditions of the Métis people and to guard their role in society. 

The Métis people occupied several distinct territories in Alberta each related to a specific way of living unique to this historic tribe of people. There are opportunities to gain first-hand experience to see how and where the Métis people lived back in the day through the exploration of these different sites. 

Victoria Settlement

Paddling into the Past provides the perfect opportunity to travel in a canoe along the fur trade routes on the North Saskatchewan and Athabasca River. (It is currently on hold due to Covid19 restrictions).

It is an outdoor real-life experience that is as close to nature as you can get. The Victorian settlements provincial historical sites further immerse you into the Métis fur trade era where you can transport fur in bales just as they did. 

Hand-written letters by the Métis will make you feel as if you are right there speaking to them face to face and you get to experience Métis life vicariously through these time kept treasures.

The Hudson’s Bay building was restored in 1864 and it is here that you can get to recreate crafts that were popular at this time. Guides dressed in ethnic costumes will take you on an educational experience to see what life was actually like inside the fort.

Métis Crossing is where you will get to experience the famous fur trade era of the Métis culture. True to the welcoming nature of the Métis people you will get invited into an original Métis family home where you will get to try your hand out at weaving a sash and setting a fur trap.

Elk Island

Elk Island National Park is a natural heritage site that is perfect for shorter day activities like hiking or longer ones such as staying at a campsite overnight. This heritage site is of particular importance due to the preservation of the once near-extinct bison buffalo. It is also home to elk and many other indigenous bird species. 

There are activities to do on the island for both children and adults and this makes it an ideal family-friendly getaway. Your child can explore safe and secure nature trails, enjoy the local playground as well as play on the beach. 

If you don’t like experiencing the outdoors without the company of your furry friend you can bring them along too as there are dog-walking trails as well as a host of other outdoor activities that will set the stage for outdoor life and outdoor living such as camping, hiking, wildlife viewing, and cycling.

Explore Edmonton

Métis Crossing is the first major cultural interpretive centre of Alberta. It is a facility that celebrates and educates tourists and locals alike about the activities that centred around Métis culture and the resources they used to build a self-sustaining lifestyle in the fishing, hunting, and fur trapping trade. Experience the harmonious and free-spirited lifestyle of the Métis here through the arts, storytelling, and dance.

Rupert's Land Institute 

Rupert’s Land Institute's works alongside the Métis Nation of Alberta. Its purpose is to establish an educational training and research framework to support and equip Métis people with additional skills and resources to improve and enhance the lives of the Métis people.

Fort Edmonton Park

Fort Edmonton Park is a world on its own and is set to open in 2021. Step into the world of the Métis nation like never before as you explore the daily living of the Métis from how they conducted their fur trade activities to how they seized Fort Garry during the Red River Rebellion.

Visit Métis Crossing for the full experience

The Métis people are people who are classified as Métis by either receiving a land grant by the Manitoba or Dominion Land Act or otherwise recognized as such by either the government, the church, or the local community.

While the Métis people live and work in most areas in Alberta, in general, they have quite high population percentages in Edmonton and Calgary specifically. It is only in Alberta where you will find actual provincial legislation that recognizes the eight Métis settlements in Alberta.

For the full Métis experience at Métis Crossing, you can give our Walk in Our Mocs - Métis Archery Program a try. This immersive and detailed tourism experience will walk you through the daily life and living of the Métis people and how they worked the land. 

You can also get to try your hand at using a bow and arrow, a unique method that the Métis people used to hunt and trap wild animals. You are also able to taste the unique flavor of Métis food through a Métis inspired menu. Some other culturally inspired activities include:

    • Learning how to make a traditional Métis woolen capote using traditional Métis methods, design, and decorations.
    • Paddle into the Past is one of our most famous Métis experiences; however, this has been understandably put on hold due to Covid19 restrictions. When restrictions are lifted you can expect to look forward to lessons on crafting, a canoe Voyageur experience, learning about traditional plants and the medicinal and herbal benefits that the Métis derived from them, as well as how to do a traditional jig known as the Red River Jig.
    • Tales of the Trapline Experience - this Métis cultural experience is a true winter experience set in the heartlands of the Métis River Lot Farm. Explore this area and learn how to set a snare while navigating the snow with your snowshoes on and learn how to build a survival shelter designed to withstand the freezing elements.
    • There are also other event catering experiences we offer which include event and function hire, camping in trappers’ tents, gift shops and cafes where you can buy traditional Métis nick-nacks, food, and drinks as well as educational experiences based on set curriculums taught by experienced educators.

The Métis nation has contributed so much towards enriching Alberta and making it the multicultural diverse province that it is today – one that embraces diversity as well as the values and cultural contributions of all its indigenous people.

If you're looking for a memorable experience that is rooted in culture, teamwork, loyalty, honor, and pride in one’s history, contact us today for more information.

Why the Métis culture is perfect for your big day

Your wedding is going to be one of the most memorable and important events in your life. Incorporating Indigenous culture into your big day can bring it to a new level of spirituality and connection to the land. Here we look into how the Métis culture here in Alberta, is a perfect choice for making your wedding an event you will treasure for the rest of your life.

Métis history

First, it can be useful to learn about the history of the Métis. Descendants of the original inhabitants of Canada, the Métis have grown into a distinct Indigenous people. Along with First Nations and Inuit, the Métis are one of three distinct Indigenous Peoples of Canada recognized by the 1982 Constitution Act. The Métis have a current population of over 450,000 with many living in the province of Alberta.

In the mid-1600s, mixed-blood offspring of European fur traders and First Nations people were born and began to form a new Aboriginal identity, know as “Métis”. The Métis developed into a distinct culture that drew from European and First Nation influences. Their diverse traditions and command of both European and First Nation languages made the Métis the best intermediaries between European and First Nation cultures.

The Métis have been living in Alberta well before Alberta joined confederation. In 1928, the Métis began organizing themselves politically. Today, Alberta’s Métis have grown to over 114,000 people and continue to maintain their relationship with the land and reliance on traditional harvesting practices.

The Métis have a rich culture and heritage 

The opportunity to bring Métis culture into your wedding starts well before the big day. Your wedding invitation will be the first impression your guests will have, and is when they will learn about your wedding’s theme. Ask the venue you are using if they can refer you to local Indigenous artists to work with you to design invitations that highlight the Métis culture, both thoughtfully and respectfully.

For the wedding day, the Métis have a rich culture filled with experiences and stories that can make your wedding day perfect. Introduce traditional activities such as beading and finger weaving into your wedding theme, or include a Métis Jig in your first dance. The Métis have a rich history filled with music, art, and story that we are excited to share and bring to your wedding day.

Another area where the Métis culture can make your wedding truly memorable is food. Métis cuisine comes from a fusion of European and First Nations, local and international, past and present. Traditionally, the Métis were hunters, eating buffalo, moose, elk, prairie chicken, duck, and geese. Fish, wild berries, and wild plants were also important sources of food. Have your wedding catered by a Métis chef who can create authentic, mouth-watering dishes for you and your guests to enjoy.

About Métis Crossing 

Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive centre in Alberta and is the premier centre for Alberta Métis cultural interpretation, education, gatherings, and business development. Sitting on 512 acres of land, including river lot titles from the original Métis settlers to the region in the late 1800s, the crossing is designed to engage and excite visitors through an exploration of Métis cultural experiences.

Métis Crossing’s Cultural Gathering Centre 

Our new Cultural Gathering Centre is a fantastic venue that is perfect for your big day. It was completed in 2020, designed by Métis Architect Tiffany Shaw-Collinge and built in honour of the Métis people. Using traditional craftsmanship and modern materials, the Cultural Gathering Centre is a stunning building that brings out the architecture of the fur trade era river lot homes while having the functionality of a contemporary building. It has been built to engage and excite our visitors through an exploration of Métis cultural experiences.

The future of Métis Crossing 

Métis Crossing was created to be a year-round destination that is centred around the Métis story and culture and sharing it with the world. Future plans include:

  • The Métis Crossing Lodge
  • Star Watching Glass Pods
  • Cooking Demonstrations
  • Traditional Gardens

As part of your wedding planning, come and spend a day at Métis crossing to learn about our culture and how we can help bring it to your special day. Métis Crossing strives to represent and share elements of Métis culture, pride of culture and respect (with self-identification), family reconnection and reconciliation, sacredness of place, empathy, and acknowledgement. Contact us to speak with a representative about your future wedding or event plans.

Seven steps to planning the perfect Indigenous cultural wedding

Congratulations on your engagement! As you and your partner begin this new journey together, you may both be wondering, “How should I plan a perfect cultural wedding?” Here are the seven steps you can take to make sure that you have a perfect wedding with Indigenous cultural aspects and traditions.

1. Determine your budget 

If money were no object, wedding planning would be much simpler. For most people, it is essential to determine what you can realistically afford to spend without going into severe debt. Sit down and figure out how much money is available – some couples may even include the honeymoon budget in here as well. Set up different categories and allocate where you will spend your budget:

  • Travel & accommodation costs
  • Venue rental
  • Food & beverages
  • Photographer & videographer
  • Musicians or DJ
  • Flowers and decorations
  • Wedding attire
  • Honeymoon

Creating a budget will help you with all the choices you will need to take down the road as you plan your perfect day.

2. List your priorities 

You are not going to be able to have everything your heart desires at your wedding. Use the categories in your budget and determine which is the most important for you and your new family. When bringing Indigenous culture into your wedding, the venue you choose should be one of your highest priorities. Look for cultural centres like the recently completed Cultural Gathering Centre at Métis Crossing in Alberta that offers its guests a full exploration of Indigenous cultural experiences that can be incorporated into your wedding day.

3. Find a cultural venue 

Go to local Indigenous associations and research what cultural venues or centres are available. If you want an outdoor wedding, ask if they have backup plans if the weather is unfavourable. Métis Crossing is a fantastic location that offers large spaces, both indoors and outdoors with fantastic views and cultural elements, activities, and cuisine for weddings of various sizes. Ensure you consider its location, transport, local accommodation, and the number of guests it can hold. Once you find one, book it quickly so you can secure your date.

wedding day

4. Identify what cultural elements to include

There are different ways to bring Indigenous elements to your wedding. First, you should take the time to pause and reflect on the land’s relationship with the First Peoples in Canada. Start the celebration with a land acknowledgement to show reconciliation, respect, and goodwill. Involve an Elder who can guide you with wording and pronunciation.

Work with your venue to bring in an Indigenous menu for you and your guests. Look for food that includes local ingredients and ties to Indigenous culture and heritage. Include traditional arts and crafts into your invitations, decorations, and wedding activities.

5. Hire your photographer and other artists 

Any event as important as a wedding deserves to be captured forever in photographs that you can share with your friends and family. When planning your music, ask the venue if they have contacts with any Indigenous musicians to hire to perform at your wedding to add a new cultural element.

6. Invite your guests 

Sending out invitations to your guests can be exciting and is your chance to give the first impression of your cultural wedding. Ask the venue you are using if they would be willing to help you design invitations that bring out the wedding’s Indigenous culture thoughtfully and respectfully. They may know of local artists who can help you design your invitations.  Don’t forget to check for any spelling errors or incorrect dates and times!

7. The final check 

As you go about planning your wedding, it is a good idea to list out all the people you are hiring and the primarycontact for the venues you are using. These people include photographers, musicians, essential guests such as bridesmaids, officials taking part in the ceremony, and managers of your venues. As the wedding day approaches, go through your list of people and call them and confirm that everything is on track and ready to go for that big day.

On the day of your wedding, you will see all your work come to fruition. You and your spouse will look fantastic, so take a deep breath, relax and have a perfect day.

Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive centre in Alberta and is the premier centre for Alberta Métis cultural interpretation, education, gatherings, and business development. Sitting on 512 acres of land, including river lot titles from the original Métis settlers to the region in the late 1800s, the crossing is designed to engage and excite visitors through an exploration of Métis cultural experiences. The new Cultural Gathering Centre designed by Métis Architect Tiffany Shaw-Collinge was recently completed in 2020.

As part of your wedding planning, come and spend a day at Métis crossing to learn about our culture and how we can help bring it to your special day. Métis Crossing strives to represent and share elements of Métis culture, pride of culture and respect (with self-identification), family reconnection and reconciliation, sacredness of place, empathy, and acknowledgement. Contact us to speak with a representative about your future wedding or event plans.

An authentic way to bring Indigenous culture to your Alberta wedding

Congratulations! Marriage is sure to be one of the most exciting and paramount adventures you will have in your life. Marriage is a merging of two families, a fusion of cuisine, traditions, culture, and stories. The wedding is an essential part of bringing two families together in celebration and bringing Indigenous culture to your wedding will make for great memories and an extraordinary event. Here are four ways that you to introduce Métis Indigenous culture to your wedding here in Alberta.

1. Find an Indigenous venue for your big day

Location, location, location. While you have no doubt heard this in real estate, the venue will set the stage for your wedding. Many Indigenous communities have cultural centres well suited for large functions such as weddings. These venues can take you to the heart of local Indigenous culture. Venues such as the Cultural Gathering Centre located at Métis Crossing in Smoky Lake, Alberta can be excellent options. The Cultural Gathering Centre is the first of its kind in the province and can bring the unique traditions, art, and culture of the Métis to your wedding.

wedding

2. Bring Indigenous culture to the table with your menu 

Food can communicate much about a culture’s traditions and history. Traditionally, the Métis were hunters, with their lifestyle revolving around the Plains buffalo. When not hunting for buffalo, other animals including moose, elk, rabbits, duck, and geese were hunted for food. Many of the favourite Métis dishes come from a fusion of past and present, European and First Nations, and local and international. Venues such as Métis Crossing offers menus that include locally harvested ingredients with traditional ties to the Métis people and their heritage.

3. Give a land acknowledgement to start the wedding 

During your ceremony, take the time to pause and reflect on the land’s relationship with the First Peoples in Canada. There are three recognized First Peoples in Canada: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. A land acknowledgement to start your wedding ceremony is a gesture of reconciliation, respect, and goodwill, as well as allowing you to thank them for their hospitality. For brides and grooms without Indigenous ancestry, you may wish to speak with an Elder who can help you with wording and pronunciation. In some cases, the Elder may want to attend the ceremony themselves.

4. Incorporate traditional Indigenous activities 

The Indigenous experiences that cultural centres have been offering are gaining in popularity according to the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada. It provides people an opportunity to learn about the cultures and traditions of Indigenous people. Look into adding interactive, hands-on experiences to your wedding, from traditional arts and crafts to roasting a bannock over a fire, to listening to stories from a local storyteller.

Make your wedding an event that everyone will remember by bringing in Indigenous culture through food, stories, activities, and location. Many cultural centres provide catering and traditional activities so make sure you or your wedding planner coordinate with them to make your wedding that perfect day.

Métis Crossing is the first major Métis cultural interpretive centre in Alberta and is the premier centre for Alberta Métis cultural interpretation, education, gatherings, and business development. Sitting on 512 acres of land, including river lot titles from the original Métis settlers to the region in the late 1800s, the crossing is designed to engage and excite visitors by exploring Métis cultural experiences. The new Cultural Gathering Centre designed by Métis Architect Tiffany Shaw-Collinge was recently completed in 2020.

wedding

As part of your wedding planning, come and spend a day at Métis crossing to learn about our culture and how we can help bring it to your special day. Métis Crossing strives to represent and share elements of Métis culture, pride of culture and respect (with self-identification), family reconnection and reconciliation, sacredness of place, empathy, and acknowledgement. Contact us to speak with a representative about your future wedding or event plans.