LAC LA BICHE - A handful of Indigenous workshops and performances this month aim to spread awareness and teach participants about local Indigenous history. From jingle dancing lessons, storytelling, and the importance and meaning of teepee spaces all while connecting with guests through a hands-on experience for the first time through the program, said John Ritchie, Indigenous tourism project development officer at the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre.
“What we really hope people get out of these experiences is a better understanding of the Indigenous people within our area because that’s the story we’re sharing…we want to focus on peoples history’s and the story’s around the Lac La Biche region.”
Through a province-wide initiative to promote communities with Indigenous Tourism Alberta, the Canadian Native Friendship Centre will be hosting three events at Sir Winston Churchill Park community hall on Aug. 7, 13 and 27.
“The experience will run for two hours on Saturdays within the month of August. We are looking at three experiences. Each Saturday will be different,” said Ritchie.
Kicking off the events will be a Shimmer and Shine program this Saturday that will cover the Jingle Dress dance, a staple Indigenous performance during powwows. The session which will include stories about the importance of the sacred performance will also provide guests with a chance to ask questions and learn some moves from host Randi Lynn Nanemahoo-Candline, said Ritchie.
“Randy Lynn will be talking about her story of the Jingle Dress and what that dance means to her and Indigenous people…she’s also first nations and has experience developing first nations programming,” he adds which will allow the first session to provide a well-rounded educational experience for guests attending the new programs this month.
“This is our first year offering these programs. They are newly developed this season and utilizing people who deliver programming already,” said Ritchie who also operates Hideaway Adventure Grounds out of Kikino Métis Settlement about 40 km south of the hamlet of Lac La Biche. The site which not only provides rustic camping experiences and has been indulging travellers since 2018 about Métis ways, Ritchie says will include a trapping tales session on the Aug 13 season led by him. The new course that debuted at the grounds last month will cover housing, transportation and survival skills practiced by Métis populations while telling stories, he added.
The final session the Home Fire Experience on Aug. 27 which will also be led by Nanemahoo-Candline who will cover the detailed history of teepees alongside a hands-on activity, said Ritchie.
“The Home Fire Experience will talk about the meaning and importance of the teepee within the Indigenous culture,” he says for example “within the 15 teepee poles there are 15 teachings that correspond to each pole.”
Additionally, the unique partnership with the province is aiming to showcase the different Indigenous histories and lessons that are around the province, said Ritchie. Fortunately, the collaboration which is supporting the local tourism industry is also finding ways to tell Indigenous stories while providing opportunities for others to learn, he added.
“Indigenous Tourism Alberta has been very helpful with spreading the word on the different events that are happening around the province. That’s why I got into Indigenous Tourism is because there was a lack of product for the amount of demand in the tourism world,” a void he hopes to fill through programming.
Ultimately Ritchie hopes the hands-on experience will provide education, entertainment and awareness of local Indigenous ways of life.
“We really find that the hands-on activities really engage people into the activities and they get a chance to slow down and think about what they're doing and understand the skills needed to do some of these tasks…we hope to see people attend throughout the month.”
The sessions are approved for all ages and skill levels and will cost $10 for ages three-six, $20 for seniors and youth and $30 for adults per session.
For more information or to purchase tickets visit the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre’s Facebook page.