Getting in touch with some fascinating parts of southern Alberta’s history is getting easier thanks to a new effort to highlight the past right in the heart of modern Calgary.
Tarra Wright Many Chief is offering tours providing insight into Blackfoot traditions though her company Many Chief Tours.
The tours take place on St. Patrick’s Island, across the Bow River from downtown Calgary.
“It’s actually a Blackfoot sacred site,” Many Chief said.
“It’s where the confluence of the (Bow and Elbow) rivers come together, a place where traditionally we would camp, considered a peaceful spot, where different tribes from both northern Alberta and southern Alberta could come together.”
Featuring traditional legends and information on things like medicinal plant use, free self-guided audio tours are available until the end of February, accessed by scanning QR codes on signs placed around St. Patrick’s Island.
Socially-distanced in-person tours begin in on March 6.
“Doing research and learning more about this area has really helped me reconnect more with my culture,” Many Chief said.
“I love that it’s something that I can share with other people.”
The tours feature parts of nature that were traditionally important to the Blackfoot, many of which are still plentiful along the river banks, including wolf willow bushes.
“The plant has two uses,” Many Chief said. “We used to eat them in times of famine and we would boil it and use the powder from around the seed as tea.”
The tours are also designed to give some unexpected perspectives on familiar items.
“One of the interesting things about the way the tipi worked is the fire pit was actually dug about half a foot into the ground,” Many Chief said. “As the earth starts to warm up from the fire, your body starts to warm up.”
More information on the tours is available at www.manychieftours.com.