Are you looking for a unique travel experience? I was … so, when I was invited to take part in a five-day trip with Indigenous Travel Alberta recently, I was intrigued. Recently, National Geographic Traveler’s prestigious Best of the World destinations list for 2023 named Indigenous Tourism Alberta as one of its Top 25 breathtaking places and experiences—for good reason. It didn’t take me long to learn that anyone, from adventure seekers and cultural enthusiasts to foodies and nature lovers, will discover fabulous ways to connect with authentic, deeply rich Indigenous tourism experiences. —Michelle Hopkins
P.S. Some of you, like me, might not know that the Metis is actually a distinct culture. The Metis people originated in the 1700s, when French and Scottish fur traders married First Nations women, such as Cree and Anishinabe (better known as the Ojibway people).
wildlife sightings. For Instagram-worthy photos of wildlife, the Metis Crossing Wildlife Park is for you. Get up close and personal (in a vehicle, mind you), to rare, majestic wood and plains bison. For Metis people, the plains bison, also dubbed “li buffalo,” (despite the fact that bison and buffalo are two separate species), are revered as they were the main source of survival and income from 1810 to 1870. As you travel through the 380-acre park, listen for the thunderous sounds of the wood bison hooves as they disappear into a distant patch of boreal forest. Truly a memorable wildlife adventure.
luxe slumber. Metis Crossing is Alberta’s first major Metis cultural resort destination. Seemingly in the middle of nowhere, Metis Crossing is located 1.5 hours northeast of Edmonton and sits on a 512-acres historic Metis river lot site. This luxury 40-room boutique lodge is nestled overlooking the North Saskatchewan River. But what sets the resort apart is that it is home to a Cultural Gathering Centre, one which celebrates the story of the people through classes on traditional art, beading, and jewelry making, as well as immersive walks in the surrounding serene grounds. The bright rooms offer ultra-comfy beds. Plus, this spring, Métis Crossing will be unveiling its Sky Watching Domes to connect visitors with the night’s sky and stars.
You don’t have to be a gambler to stay at the River Cree Resort & Casino. This gorgeous Indigenous-owned resort features Indigenous-inspired design in each of their 249 guest rooms and throughout the property. You can even indulge in authentic First Nations foods in some of their restaurants. The rooms feature linger-longer deluxe bedding, flat-screen TVs with the ability to cast movies from your Netflix app, microwaves, and coffee makers.
discover culture. Discover the rich culture of the Metis People and their deep connection to nature during a three-hour educational snowshoe to Elk Island National Park, a UNESCO-designated Biosphere. Led by Keith Diakiw, a proud Metis and founder of Talking Rock Tours, the excursion provides a unique opportunity to learn about native flora and fauna and their significance and use by the Metis. Follow along the snow blanketed Moss Lake Trail loop, which takes you on a challenging journey up rolling hills and past frozen lakes. Exhilarating.
Learn about the beliefs and lifestyles of the First Nations and Metis peoples at Fort Edmonton Park’s newest award-winning museum, Indigenous Peoples Experience—it is the first exhibit of its kind in Canada. It is arguably the finest collections of artifacts and collections I’ve ever seen. Highlights include feathered headdresses and ornaments still worn for rituals and ceremonial dances. There are also intricately woven baskets, teepees, exquisite jewellery, drums, canoes and tools for hunting and fishing.
Metis Crossing’ offers several signature winter experiences like snow tubing and cross-country skiing. I took part in The Tales of the Trapline, a three-hour immersive and captivating journey through traditional Metis winter activities. Expert and knowledgeable guide John Ritchie combines a snowshoe walk in a capote (a long, hooded wrap wool cloak that at first glance, didn’t look like it would keep us warm in minus 40, but did), with teachings about traditional winter activities and skills needed to survive in the wilderness.
shop essentials. Deeply rooted in the plants of the Indigenous Medicine Wheel, including tobacco, sage, cedar and sweetgrass, Carrie Armstrong, of the Cree Nations, is the founder of Mother Earth Essentials: the purest, high-quality bath and beauty products. Armstrong was inspired by her late grandmother’s teachings on traditional plants and natural remedies. Wild rose, cranberry, black spruce, lavender, and peppermint are also used. Bring your credit card because, I promise you, like me, you’ll want to bring home a number of her products.
delicious dining. Unearth sophisticated dining at Whiskeyjack Art House. With Mushkego Cree, Pei Pei Chei Ow catering head chef, Scott Jonathan Iserhoff, enjoy a captivating dive into Aboriginal food. The 35-year-old acclaimed chef’s storytelling skills rival his culinary mastery when he delves into the natural land, life and seasons that inspire and surround him. Nosh on ridiculously delicious Bannock bites with charred tomatoes, whipped ricotta and mint, Pipon salad with local kale, wild arugula, endive, mint, apples and pine nuts, and potato dumplings and fried quail with sage butter. The Kokhom’s Blueberry Cheesecake with bee pollen was to die for. The sampling is paired with La’P Cheet Sparkling Rose from Indigenous World. La’P Cheet translates to “light shining of the water” in Syilx.