Experience Canadian history first hand


By Abby Cooper

Ktunaxa Nation, B.C. – Rising to the early morning glow from outside the teepee walls, we breathed the crisp mountain air and arose from our comfortable sleeping quarters to greet the day. After spending a night nestled in a teepee at Speaking Earth in St. Eugene, part of the greater Cranbrook area, we felt refreshed and more connected to our Canadian heritage than ever.  

“It was absolutely magical spending the night with the stars overhead, a cosy fire inside and listening to the winds and rivers lullaby. An experience I won’t forget.” said Amanda Romanchuk over breakfast.

The previous day was spent learning about the Ktunaxa Nation. Upon first glance at St. Eugene our eyes lit up, the old architecture was covered in vibrant vines and the beautiful flowering lawn looked so welcoming to us. Later, we would learn the history of the building and appreciate its refreshed atmosphere.  

Go #RockiesExploring and step back in time and connect with Canada's original inhabitants

Photo: Abby Cooper

A language class was our first formal look into the Ktunaxa Nation. We learned basic greetings, a few meanings of words and worked on grasping some new sounds. Conversationally, we embraced the challenge! Later, we heard many of these greetings in passing throughout the St. Eugene area – it was great to be able to respond with confidence.  

Learn more about Speaking Earth by reading these stories:
- Speaking Earth: First Hand

To further our connection to the Ktunaxa, we explored the museum that showcased their way of life previous to Eastern influences. Games played, methods of hunting, clothing worn and shelter-related artifacts were showcased in the museum and our tour guide explained how different life was lived then. She shed light on legends and beliefs of the Ktunaxa like how the skunk learned to stink and how the shape of the mountains came to be.

To bring the culture into our current setting, she explained our surroundings, that St. Eugene was once a residential school. Many residential schools across the country have been torn down and removed to erase the memories associated with them, but the Ktunaxa people believe that it made it them stronger, not by choice, but it unified them in a new way and rather than tear down the building, they revamped it into a healing, learning and cultural epicentre. 

Photo: Abby Cooper

Stephanie Mawson explained, “The day was really interesting. To hear about the school and listen to the words of former students was very powerful. The band has taken a place that used to hold painful memories and has turned it into a place where former students can share their stories and we can learn from the past. Completing the visit by hearing stories from the elders around a campfire and sleeping in a teepee brought us back to what life was like here well before the residential school. That intention of being connected to the land was present during our visit and what I took away most from the time at St. Eugene. This experience put me in touch with the history of our country in a way that you cannot experience any other way.” 

Before nightfall, we played traditional Ktunaxa games in the yard and enjoyed a delightful bison stew with bannock bread and greens by the fire. One of the Ktunaxa elders shared stories passed down by her elders and shared photographs of the community leaders from years past. It was a special experience to hear about our country’s heritage in a new perspective around a crackling fire, with the Rocky Mountains at our back and the St. Mary’s River to our front. The elements of the earth felt more alive during our stay and so did the past.  

Photo: Abby Cooper

Sleeping in a teepee was the icing on the cake for making our experience at St. Eugene completely authentic. We literally breathed, ate and slept in our history leaving us feeling more Canadian than ever.  

If You Go

Visit the Tourism Cranbrook Website for any pretrip research or stop by their in town visitor centre in town for more details on the region. 

Check out the #RockiesExploring pieces on ZenSeekers to see what’s in the neighbouring towns to extend your stay.

Speaking Earth’s website has all your reservation and general questions covered.

Fly into Canadian Rockies International Airport fast and flawlessly with the Pacific Coastal Airlines Crew! Book now with St. Eugene and treat yourself to some time in history and experience indigenous culture.

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