Experience Canadian history first hand
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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.
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.
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.”
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.