Edmonton may woe visitors for its mall, but there is so much more to Edmonton, and it can be found right under the city. Talking Rock Tours is the perfect example of an Indigenous Tour in Edmonton that uncovers the layers of history by actually looking at the rocks and the ground right inside the city.
Indigenous Tours in Edmonton: Talking Rock Tours
Talking Rock tours is an earth-science-focused tour by Métis guide, Keith Diakiw. It is one of Alberta’s authentic Indigenous experiences that you can do in Edmonton. He shares his passion for geology and his historical knowledge as he takes guests on a tour using two-eyed seeing. This is simply put, one eye European and one eye Indigenous.
Keith shared his extensive knowledge of geology and explained how the river valley right inside Edmonton has been an important and sacred meeting place for over 10 000 years. We think of Western Canada as having such a young history, but there was so much more that came before the Europeans who settled on what was known as Turtle Island.
Keith offers local knowledge of geology, of history and of his push to gain more mainstream recognition for the Indigenous history of the region. He kept Mattias intrigued with his storytelling and taught us about smudging. We both got to take part in our first smudging as well. Without a guide, there is no way that any visitor (or even local) would be able to uncover the wealth of information that Keith provides.
The Edmonton River Valley Discovery Tour begins on the historic site of Fort Edmonton IV and its sacred burial grounds and cemetery near the Rossdale Power Plant. After learning about this burial ground, we headed up hilll to the last Fort Edmonton site on the legislature grounds. Keith then took us to a prominent geologic outcrop that showcases sediments above when dinosaurs once roamed, all the way to the more recent glacial lake deposits, when the last ice age retreated on the Great Plains for good. He showed us the ash from the Crater Lake Volcano that erupted over 7000 years ago! We then went to River Lot 11 and the Indigenous Art Park and had time to experience a sharing circle and some Indigenous music.
It is clear that Keith has a passion for protecting his history and sharing it with locals as well as visitors. After spending a few hours with Keith, I found myself constantly questioning why some simple changes could not be made to better celebrate and support the long history that surrounds Edmonton.
Tour Feature: Crater Lake Volcano Ash
7700 years ago a volcano 100x larger than Mount St Helens erupted. That ash spread all over North America, including Edmonton. This ash has helped trace Indigenous activity in Edmonton back over 10 000 years! While the outcropping was recently vandalized, I hope the paint disappears soon. I highly doubt that the vandals had any idea that they were spray painting 10 000 years of geology on the river bank.
Tour Feature: Indigenous Art Park Edmonton
One of the interesting stops on the tour is Edmonton’s Indigenous Art Park. This park is in Queen Elizabeth Park and was opened in 2018. It sits on one of the historic river lots that were once owned by the Métis peoples of Canada. Inside you find 6 art installations, all created by Indigenous artists, who were asked to create pieces inspired by this land.
While each art piece has a plaque beside it, having a knowledgeable guide brought the stories of the art to life.
Things to note: The tour takes 2.5 to 3 hours depending on your pace and interest at each spot. Wear comfortable shoes as you will walk close to 5km on the route. It is mostly flat with a small uphill at the beginning to the Legislature.
How to Book: visit talkingrocktours.com
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Lindsay Nieminen is the creator of UncoveringBC.com. She grew up and still lives in the suburbs of Vancouver with her family. She aims to inspire inform, and educate others about traveling in her home province of British Columbia. She is also the creator of carpediemourway.com which aims to show parents how to seek out adventure at home or abroad, with their children in tow!