Calgary, or Moh’kinsstis in Blackfoot, is cradled between the Rocky Mountains to the west and vast plains to the east. This is Treaty 7 territory. Made up of the Blackfoot Confederacy, Îyâxe Nakoda, and Tsuut’ina nations, Treaty 7 is also home to the Métis Nation, Regions 5 and 6. Whether you’re looking for an outdoor adventure or to broaden your cultural understanding, the Indigenous experiences in this area are as diverse as the land and people themselves.
Indigenous Experiences in and around Calgary
Indigenous Experiences in and around Calgary
Where to Experience a Powwow
Yes, you can visit a powwow! A powwow is a place of celebration, sharing, dance, music, and most of all pride. You do not have to be Indigenous to take in the festivities and anyone is encouraged to watch.
Powwows are held across Treaty 7 during the summer, with dancers coming from all over Canada and the United States to compete for prizes in a variety of dances. Here are some prominent local powwows (exact dates typically aren’t listed until closer to the event):
Calgary Attractions with Indigenous Programming
The Calgary Stampede - Elbow River Camp
Every July during Stampede you can learn from each of the Treaty 7 Nations at Elbow River Camp. Families from all the nations set up teepees, many of which are the same families that participated in the first Stampede more than 100 years ago. Attend daily powwows, listen to the powerful drum beat of world-class drummers, and enjoy Indigenous treats such as Fry Bread.
Sitting on the banks of the Glenmore Reservoir is Canada’s premiere historical village, Heritage Park. This family-friendly attraction engages visitors with both settler and Indigenous experiences. Walk the streets of a turn of the century town, learn Métis recipes on a wood-burning stove, step inside the Yellow Otter Tipi, and set sail on the late 1800’s era paddle wheeler ship.
Built in 1875 at the confluence of the Elbow and Bow Rivers, Fort Calgary was the setting for some of the first interactions between settlers and the Indigenous peoples of Treaty 7. Today it provides a place to hear important stories about colonialism and truth and reconciliation. Fort Calgary regularly features Indigenous events, exhibits, and programming, so make sure to check their schedule.
Moonstone Creations offers a wide selection of local handcrafted Indigenous crafts, apparel, and art. They also run workshops like Moccasin making, fish scale art, and beading. Each workshop weaves in traditional knowledge and appreciation for Indigenous culture.
Visiting Tsuut’ina Nation
Located just south-west of Calgary, the Tsuut’ina Nation is on a beautiful expanse of rolling foothills. It’s an area rich with cultural experiences for visitors.
Little Chief Restaurant
Indulge your tastebuds with Indigenous inspired dishes on the Tsuut’ina Nation at Little Chief Restaurant. Located in the Grey Eagle Resort & Casino, Little Chief Restaurant serves up dishes like Bannock with Saskatoon Berry Cream Cheese, Hamburger Soup, Prairie Berry Salad, and Indian Taco’s.
Tsuut’ina Nation Culture Museum
Discover the rich history and culture of Calgary’s closest First Nation at the Tsuut’ina Nation Culture Museum. The museum features honoured regalia, artifacts, crafts, and even the original homestead of Chief Bull Head on site. Explore on your own or book a tour through the museum to learn the many stories the Nation has to offer.
Dodging Horse Ranch
Learn about the importance of horses to the Tsuut’ina people at Dodging Horse Ranch. Your visit can be completely customized by calling the owners. Experiences include trail rides, archery lessons, and traditional drumming. Any experience should be capped off with a massage in the Spa Tipi.
Reconnect with nature by staying in a luxury canvas tent or dome next to the Elbow River. Elevated Escapes offers unique accommodation at OneSpot Crossing Campground which is an Indigenous owned and operated campground near Bragg Creek.
Indigenous Guided Tours
Weaving Indigenous traditions, wilderness education, and hands-on learning, Painted Warriors offers adventures for everyone. Stay in one of their glamping tents with a wood burning stove, horseback ride on the 80 acres of pristine forest, or learn how to hunt with a bow. Painted Warriors is an unforgettable getaway only an hour from Calgary.
Nestled in the dense boreal forest near Sundre, Mahikan Trails offers an eye-opening introduction into the world of Indigenous traditional medicines. Your expert guide will help you identify the many gifts in nature that are just under your nose! Mahikan Trails also offers medicine walks in Canmore and Banff as well as wilderness first aid and soap making courses.
Drift Out West Flyfishing
The Bow River south of Calgary is a world-renowned spot for fly fishing and expert guide, Quinn, knows the river better than just about anyone. Quinn’s Cree ancestors didn’t fish the Bow, but they did live along its banks. You won’t meet anyone who enjoys the river more. If you’re looking for a unique adventure close to the city, Drift Out West Flyfishing is it.
Buffalo Stone Woman
Buffalo Stone Woman combines hiking in the Rocky Mountains with traditional food, culture, and teachings. Guided hikes in Kananaskis Country are offered for all skill levels. They also offer workshops, tipi camping, and customizable experiences such as fireside chats with elders.
Indigenous Historic Sites
If you’re willing to drive a few hours from Calgary, these three heritage sites will be well worth the trip.
Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park
Explore the coulees and hoodoos of the Milk River valley at Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Ancient stories from the Blackfoot people dating back thousands of years were carved into the soft sandstone rocks of the valley. This important archaeological site is home to a beautiful campground and several stunning hiking trails.
Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park
Blackfoot Crossing was the site of the signing of Treaty No. 7. This National Heritage Site gives an incredible overview of Blackfoot culture, its sacred icons, and the everyday life of the Siksika people. Enrich your visit with an overnight stay in one of their tipis, complete with wood stove.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
High on a bluff overlooking the wide-open plains of Southern Alberta is one of the county’s most significant archaeological locations and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For over 6,000 years, Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump was used by the Blackfoot people to hunt the herds of buffalo that once roamed the prairies in vast numbers. Head-Smashed-In features a world-class museum and year-round hiking trails. During the summer, there are often cultural performances from Blackfoot dancers, singers, and drummers.