4 Ways to Connect to Indigenous culture in Grande Prairie
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Grande Prairie’s Indigenous cultural connections are on the rise - try these four ways to connect to the Indigenous heritage of the region. #ExploreNWAB #GPTourism
Grande Prairie, AB — Next time you are travelling through one of Canada’s most undiscovered cities, Clinton Soto of Sturgeon Lake First Nation would like you to carry the vision of a humble bear. Soto, who has made his life here in this place his family has called home for millennia, was in front of the camera for the pictures and video found here celebrating the region’s indigenous connections.
“We felt right at home within this shoot,” said Venessa Soto, Clinton’s wife, “all these places including Muskoseepi Park, are locations we are always at.”
Embrace the indigenous roots in Grande Prairie
Grande Prairie has been embracing its indigenous connections for years and showcases its historical roots in all kinds of ways. Here are four ways to connect to Indigenous culture in the region.
1. Reconnect to nature at Muskoseepi Park
One way in which Grande Prairie recognizes the Indigenous heritage of the region is in the Cree name to the city's heart, Muskoseepi Park.
“Muskoseepi, means 'Bear Creek' in Cree,” explains Soto, who works as an Indigenous entrepreneur advisor, father, hoop dancer and long-time cultural ambassador for his nation.
“We’ve learned from our elders; the bear always knows where to find its medicine. We honour the bear for its strength and its ability to always find the traditional medicines it requires to heal themselves. The bear is strong but also humble in its ways.”
As Soto explains, this location (present day Muskoseepi Park) with its name really embodies what much of the community is: a place with strong people who are humble.
“I’ve lived in Grande Prairie for my whole life, this city has a lot of strengths and there is so much opportunity here. The city is the backbone for economic activity in our area and one of the biggest oil and gas outlets, but we’re humble about it,” says Soto.
“And from an Indigenous perspective, considering all of this industry, it's impressive to me that the region has been able to keep in tact much of its natural beauty. I have freedom here to introduce my kids and their kids will have the chance to keep their natural roots and connections to the bush, because of this approach, this means a lot to me,” says Soto.
2. Tour the Traditional Healing Gardens at Grande Prairie Friendship Centre
Over at the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre, their cultivated approach is developing through 2022 and beyond with the recent launch of their Traditional Healing Gardens where anyone is welcome for a tour.
“We know of the importance of traditional medicines and for us urban Indigenous people, we don't have access to many of the traditional medicines."
“We came up with the idea to build a garden, a traditional garden where we can grow vegetables and traditional medicines and have them available for our community,” explains board director Len Auger.
Tours of the gardens can simply be arranged through the Friendship Centre and anyone is welcome.
4. Visit Kleskun Hill Provincial Park
Just a 20-minute drive from downtown Grande Prairie lies Kleskun Hill Provincial Park.
“Kleskun is a place with supernatural energy to it,” explains Soto, “my grandfather would talk about their fathers going to Kleskun, and they had been taking horse and buggy for ever.”
Venessa explained those who work on site in the Kleskun campground have reported seeing the hills “glow” or other extra-terrestrial occurrences that cannot be explained.
When You Go
Grande Prairie is the largest city in Alberta's north, with outdoor adventure, arts and culture, shopping and events year-round. It's also one of five destinations along the #dinotrail, connecting world-leading dinosaur sites and experiences across northern Alberta and BC.
More Grande Prairie travel tips
Uncover northwest Alberta and Indigenous culture in Grande Prairie:
- Take a tour of the Traditional Healing Garden at the Grande Prairie Friendship Centre
- Make a stop at the Grande Prairie Downtown Farmers Market (Wednesday and Saturdays) – pick up some grub and picnic in Muskoseepi Park (Bear Creek in Cree)
- Visit Kleskun Hill Provincial Park – sit with the land and see how it speaks to you
- Weave your way into a Tuesday night ladies beading circle with the Traditional Pathways Society
- Camp Indigenous when you are here with Open Road Adventures
Where to stay & more
Your local hosts Grande Prairie Regional Tourism Association have you covered for accommodations and all things Grande Prairie travel. You can even stay in a teepee right at Evergreen Park!
For more travel planning ideas check out #exploreNWAB on ZenSeekers.com for stories on travel and outdoor adventure in the area. Start with this feature on Indigenous cultural experiences in Grande Prairie.
More Grande Prairie adventures
Camp, bike, hike or connect to more of the history in the Grande Prairie Region - read on for more inspiration.