Métis cultural workshop at Edmonton park keeps traditional ways alive

Groups learn basket making and plant harvesting from cultural facilitator

Fort Edmonton Park recently re-opened in July after a big renovation. One key addition was the Indigenous People’s Experience which has started to offer hands-on workshops.

It’s a trial run to see what the response is from the community and to go through the process of developing these experimental workshops.

“It’s a new partnership with the fort,” said Métis cultural educator Natalie Pepin. “We are looking at potentially offering this again next year in the future.”

Pepin runs workshops about Métis culture and way of life both online and in person.

She attended Fort Edmonton Park teaching how to harvest plants, including rosehip berries which are known to make a nice tea. She also teaches how to make birch-bark baskets.

Pepin says it’s important to keep the traditional ways alive. And they still work today.

“We’ll be using birch bark and spruce roots and willows to create our baskets,” she said. “Participants will not only get to learn about our relationships, they are going to experience one of those relationships by both harvesting rosehips and creating their own basket to take home.”

A rainy evening didn’t dampen spirits as the group learned about traditional plants. After harvesting the rosehips, the group went inside to learn birch-bark basket making — baskets that would hold the harvested plants. It’s not easy for beginners, but the group caught on quick.

“I learned about my culture, and about building these baskets. Using everything from the land. Putting it all together to see what my ancestors used to do,” said one attendee who pledged to return.

“I’m really looking forward to coming back and bringing my kids here so they can experience this as well.”

This workshop and another one which teaches participants how to use porcupine quills and wolf willow seeds will run into October.

Video Journalist / Edmonton

Chris Stewart has been in the media for 20 years. He has worked at CBC, Global and CTV as a news camera operator and editor. Chris joined APTN in 2012 in the Saskatoon Bureau and moved to APTN Edmonton bureau in 2015 as a Videojournalist.