New Indigenous experience workshops offered at Fort Edmonton Park
‘This is really an immersive, authentic way to engage’
Natalie Pepin leads a group of park staff and other tourism experts on a walk along the tree lined paths of Fort Edmonton Park. It's part of a pilot for a new workshop being offered next month.
"The land is everything to us, and that's not just pretty words that I share, it's our language, our foods, our arts, our ceremonies, our stories, they are all rooted in the land," says Pepin, a Métis facilitator originally from Winnipeg who now lives in the Tawatinaw Valley, north of Edmonton.
As she strolls along, she points out plants and talks about the animals and their importance.
Pepin is laying the foundation for how these materials will be used in the sessions on birch bark basketry in April and working with animal fibres in May.
Each 2½-hour Indigenous Perspective workshop costs about $100 to attend and includes materials.
You can see more from Fort Edmonton Park on Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV and CBC Gem.
"Our skills contain the stories and the values and important cultural context of our Nations. Our skills hold those hints," Pepin says.
After the walk, the group gathers in the loft of a large refurbished barn for more stories, songs and to begin some hands-on learning.
Katie Kennedy holds a small square of caribou hide she's embroidering.
"It's very complex and difficult," says the Explore Edmonton event development manager. "I'll be practising when I get home."
For Kennedy, it's important to attend workshops like these and develop relationships.
"We're taking a big focus on Indigenous experiences and we want to make sure we're going about things the right way," Kennedy says.
The workshops complement the learning opportunities offered at the new Indigenous Peoples Experience that opened last year at the fort, says Lacey Huculak, Fort Edmonton's experience development manager.
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"This is really an immersive, authentic way to engage," says Huculak. She adds that there are plans to add more workshops in future.
"We'd love to expand into food teaching, into dance and other different sorts of skill sets." The hope is to offer a workshop every month, she says.
Fort Edmonton Park will open for the season on May 21.