Most moms with new babies are delighted with modern technologies: diaper genies, bottle heaters, that fancy new stroller. And while Anna Cousins appreciates convenience, she’s not like most moms: “When Talon was born, I wanted him to know about his history and do those traditional teachings: I want to carry him with a cradle board (traditional indigenous baby carrier) and sleep in a Wîwîp’son (baby swing) and most of all I want him growing up surrounded by community.” Luckily for Anna and six month old son, Talon, all of those experiences were close at hand as Indigenous People’s Interpreter Volunteers at Fort Edmonton Park.
For Anna, Interpreting history is a lifelong passion; she started as a costumed volunteer child with her mother and brother at Heritage Park. When she moved up to Edmonton to be close to her Grandmother, she worked for many years as a merchandiser, but felt like something was missing. When she found the posting for Indigenous People’s Interpreter at Fort Edmonton Park, she saw an opportunity to get back to her heritage interpretation roots and share her own culture. As a mixed blood Dene woman growing up in Southern and Central Alberta, many of her skills are a mix of Cree, Dene, and Blackfoot: “My mom taught me many lessons while she was working as a historical specialist, but as an adult I continue to learn under the guidance of Elders and knowledge keepers.” Anna loves the opportunity to demonstrate skills, like preparing hides/animals, and sharing real Indigenous history: “There’s a lot of fluff out there, and I enjoy telling the real stories, especially things that get hidden from the public.”
As for baby Talon, he was born into the role. His mom met his dad, Greg, when the two were both costumed interpreters at the Park. “We became friends over the summer,” Anna recalls, “At our last staff function sparks flew.” Anna laughs “we haven’t been apart since ”. A few years later, the happy couple welcomed baby Talon. Greg still works at the Park, now in a leadership role as Indigenous Narratives Supervisor, and Anna couldn’t imagine being away from her historical community: “I wanted to come back and work, and it was important to me to be with Talon and to provide him those teachings, so volunteering was the obvious option. I know women can become a little stir crazy during mat leave, and so I think the social component of this will be valuable to me and a fun way to give back that’s good for our city.”
For Anna, interpreting with Talon will allow for important new discussions; “I think it’s vital to have children in the Fort,” says Anna. Sharing these stories is critical to keeping them alive, Anna believes, “so that we never forget: in order to know where we’re going, we have to know where we’ve been. Now that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is coming out, it’s so important to tell these stories.”
Anna does anticipate some growing pains being in a historic environment with a six month old baby: “I think the hardest part will be naps, and the absence of modern teething toys…” So far, Talon has been exceptionally well behaved and has delighted staff and volunteers at his costume fitting and during training. Beyond his value in demonstrating childhood life in the fur trade, Talon is a great morale booster for the team, bringing a smile to the faces of all who meet him. We’re hoping Talon has a great time growing up here, too.Come meet Anna and Talon at the 1846 Fort this summer!