Métis Crossing expands tourism experiences in Alberta
‘They’re not showcasing old things behind glass, they are places to experience Métis culture’
Juanita Marois watches the construction progress on a new $10-million lodge at Métis Crossing.
The executive director says when the 40-room boutique space opens later this year it will have Métis artwork on the walls and handmade quilts on the beds.
"We wanted to move our visitors from spending two or three hours here to spending two or three days," explains Marois, who says the Government of Alberta has made an investment of $1 million to support the development of the site.
Métis Crossing is a year-round destination on 200 hectares of land, made up of five river lot titles dating back to the 1800s. It's located just outside the community of Smoky Lake, an hour and a half northeast of Edmonton.
You can see more from Métis Crossing on Our Edmonton Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at noon and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV and CBC GEM.
The site features a new $8.9-million cultural gathering centre that opened last year, a traditional harvesting camp, walking trails, a playground, outdoor stage, farmyard and culturally authentic activities like archery, canoeing and trappers tents — but Marois is quick to point out this is not a museum.
"They're not showcasing old things behind glass, they are places to experience Métis culture."
Due to current COVID-19 restrictions in Alberta, only the campsite is open at this time but when visitors do return Lilyrose Meyers will be there to greet them.
"I love it. This is the opportunity to share, and I am 71 now and I guess it's time I made sure I pass it on," says the knowledge holder who's been working at Métis Crossing, an affiliate of the Métis Nation of Alberta, since it started welcoming guests back in 2005.
Raised north of High Prairie, Alta., Meyers has stories about farming, trapping, fishing, berry picking and gardening.
"Those are the things I share here."
She also radiates the pride she feels to be Métis. "It's a unique way of life. We have our music, our food, our art."
Métis artist Krista Leddy shares her art with visitors.
"Art, for me, is such an important way to express who I am but also help other people express who they are. I'm a beader, beading is my forté," said Leddy, who is the Métis Crossing Experience Development Coordinator.
She calls the spot magical.
"I think having a place like this, where people who are non-Indigenous can come and connect authentically with Indigenous people — Métis people — is a really important part of reconciliation, of rebuilding those relationships," Leddy says.
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Juanita Marois believes having a safe space to ask difficult questions and gain a different perspective on history is critical.
"People used to travel to do activities, or to go to places, then they started to travel to experience things.
"Now they want to travel to fundamentally change their world views in many ways, and Canada's best opportunity at that is Indigenous tourism."