Discover Indigenous crafts, skills and culture to enrich your winter
From beaded poppies to mocassins and ribbon skirts, handcrafted Indigenous goods are both beautiful and strongly rooted in local culture. This winter, why not learn how to make them yourself while at the same time learning from and about local Indigenous cultures?
Western Canada’s Indigenous cultures offer the perfect springboard for broadening your knowledge, and it's a great way to beat cabin fever on those cold days. There are a number of Indigenous-led events, craft and educational workshops you can attend either in person or online from Alberta and BC Indigenous artisans and educators this winter.
Here are just some of the workshops and courses offered through Alberta and BC Indigenous-led businesses and organizations.
How awesome would it be to say you made a pair of traditional moccasins for yourself, a friend or as a Christmas gift for your newborn niece or nephew?
Moccasin-making classes and other craft workshops are offered by online video instruction. When you sign up, you’re sent the materials kit and you’re good to go. The online tutorials are super helpful because you can pause, back up or replay each step of the way.
Two of the most popular crafting workshops are the beaded poppy and beaded orange shirt brooch, says Mary Dela Torre, who works at the shop.
“These are the most accessible, because people can wear them every year or all the time,” Dela Torre says. A portion of the proceeds go to the Aboriginal Veterans Association or the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation at the University of Manitoba, respectively.
If you happen to be in the Inglewood neighbourhood, Moonstone is a must-stop spot for checking out Indigenous-made art, clothing, fabrics, jewelry and traditional items, representing more than 60 Indigenous artists from across Canada.
Smoky Lake, Alberta
Métis Crossing is set on 512 beautiful acres about an hour-and-a-half northeast of Edmonton. The interpretive centre, the first of its kind in Alberta, invites people to explore the rich and storied culture of the Métis. Métis Crossing is dedicated to teaching people the heritage of Alberta’s largest Indigenous population.
The programs are guided by Lilyrose Meyers, a Knowledge Holder and traditional arts teacher who has been at Métis Crossing for 15 years. She’s passionate about keeping the traditional arts alive.
“We’re losing these things, and I want to bring them back,” she says about crafts, using such tools as porcupine quills and hair-tufting from animal hides. “It’s so neat to learn those things; it’s using what the land provides.”
near Sundre, AB
An alternative, outdoor Indigenous experience near Calgary is at Painted Warriors. The Indigenous-owned adventure company is just one hour northwest of Calgary in the foothills of the Rockies. It offers courses on animal tracking, snowshoeing, archery and more, during one- to multi-day stays. Bonus: You can spend the night and glamp in a traditional Métis tent.
Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre
Live near Vancouver or Whistler? Take the opportunity to visit the architecturally striking Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre, which is also offering in-person classes for a number of craft workshops this winter.
Indigenous Canada Online Course
University of Alberta
If you’d like to delve deeper into Indigenous culture, you can take the free online course Indigenous Canada, offered by the University of Alberta via Coursera. I’m close to finishing this excellent 12-week course myself, which you can take at your leisure.
Guaranteed, it will open your eyes to Indigenous history, traditions, pre-colonialization, Indigenous-settler relations and issues facing Indigenous communities today.
Workshops and courses in Alberta and BC for winter 2021-22
University of Alberta's Indigenous Canada online course (offered through Coursera)