The Indigenous Peoples Experience
Honouring the voices and perspectives of Edmonton’s true history
The Indigenous Peoples Experience at Fort Edmonton Park is an immersive and comprehensive exhibit. The exhibit explores the rich and beautiful cultures of First Nations and Métis Peoples while encouraging visitors to seek out the truths as lived by Indigenous Peoples before and after Canada became a country.
Located along kisiskâciwanisîpiy (the North Saskatchewan River) bank in Fort Edmonton Park, the Indigenous Peoples Experience is surrounded by lush greenery, gathering places, and columns of trees with words of welcome in Indigenous languages – such as Cree and Michif. The building is a brand new, ashen-grey structure with large windows and a beautiful, artistic façade painted with bands of vibrant colours and patterns. As visitors enter the front doors, they are greeted by a 360° degree view of the kisiskâciwanisîpiy as it runs through the floor, surrounded by lighted pathways symbolising the movement of Indigenous Peoples. As you travel along the path, wooden structures resembling Indigenous architecture rise up to meet the ceiling. Sound fills the room with music and stories of Indigenous Peoples, told by Elders from Treaty 6 Territory and Métis communities.
The exhibit displays are brimming with tools, clothing, art, and structures that have been a part of Indigenous Peoples' histories since time immemorial. Tipis, boats, and sleds are just some of the true-to-life objects that can be found in the exhibit. Plaques are hung next to objects with quotes from local Elders to explain the purpose and importance of these objects. Languages such as Blackfoot, Plains Cree, Dene, Michif, Stoney, and Saulteaux fill the space. There isn’t just sound – the room comes to life as the lights are dimmed and moving images play out on the surface of tipis. Artwork, stories of creation, and our true history plays out in vivid colours on every surface. It’s unlike any other exhibit. As visitors continue to take in the vast collection of stories, music, artwork and texts, one thing is clear - this experience was created from the voices and perspectives of local Indigenous contributors.
A large structure near the end of the exhibit houses the history of Métis peoples in amiskwaciwâskahikan (Edmonton), payhonin (St. Albert), and surrounding areas. Encircled with Métis blue, a cabin comes to life with the sounds and vibrations of jigging to the tune of the Red River Jig. The story continues through the Métis perspective as visitors are reminded that the Métis are a distinct people with their own language, culture, and history.
As visitors reach the end of the exhibit, they are greeted by a large rotunda with panel-like video screens flanked by wooden columns. A light illuminates the space – shining down like the sun. Local Indigenous dancers (Fancy, Grass, Jingle, Chicken, Crow Hop) are shown on the video screens, dancing in different locations across amiskwaciwâskahikan. The videos are uplifting and full of hope as many familiar faces of First Nations and Métis peoples flash across the screen. The presentation has a solemn reminder of residential schools and the impact the church and federal government had and continues to have on Indigenous Peoples. This final segment may be traumatic to some visitors, we encourage guests to proceed with caution.
The Indigenous Peoples Experience is an impactful and grounding opportunity for guests to learn, feel and hear the stories of this place. Through it all, there is so much to be shared about the many Indigenous cultures and peoples who call this land their home.