Indigenous History and Culture

There is a growing interest in learning more about Indigenous history and culture and which has lead to a significant growth in Indigenous Tourism. Riverbend Campground is an excellent base for a your family’s discovery adventure.

A camping staycation has become an extremely popular way to continue creating family memories. Adding a theme can enhance enjoyment of the great outdoors. In previous posts we have this guide for Planning a Staycation as well as Birdwatching Staycation, Fishing Staycation, and Introduction to Horses Staycation. In this post we offer information on our “Indigenous Tourism Staycation.”

Dunbow Residential School

We offer some basic information and resource here and if you are more experienced feel free to jump ahead to see recommended destinations. We give you the distance to reach the destination with a brief description.

The Okotoks Museum and Archives recently had an exhibit called “Little Moccasins.” This exhibit features a short documentary film, released in 2014, titled “Little Moccasins.” The film examines the history of the St. Joseph’s Residential School. The facility was renamed the Dunbow Industrial School. The school was located north east of town near Dunbow Road on the banks of the Highwood River. The School operated from 1884 until 1922. 73 Indigenous children were known to have died there. The film seeks to honour these children. Some of the shoes in the exhibit at the Museum are from the 215 children that died at the Kamloops Residential School.

Tsuut’ina Nation Culture/Museum

The closest First Nation Reservation to Riverbend Campground is the Tsuut’ina Nation which is on the western edge of Calgary. This is a wonderful facility to start you exploration into Indigenous Tourism. This museum presents an opportunity to learn some of their rich history and culture. The museum was opened to the public on June 28, 2017. Attached to the museum is a small gift shop. If you go, plan ahead. They are not open on weekends and be aware they don’t allow photos inside the museum display area as many of the artifacts are considered sacred. Click here for the museum website.

Stoney Nakoda

As part of your Indigenous Tourism staycation we recommend a visit to the Chiniki Cultural Centre. Although the facility is not large there is an excellent collection of artifacts with displays explaining their history.

Bar U Ranch

The Bar U Ranch is a National Historic Site which preserves early life in Southern Alberta. The ranch is located on the Pekisko Creek. This name originates from the Blackfoot language and means rolling foothills. The history of Southern Stoney is an integral part of ranching life in the area and a visit to Bar U is an opportunity to learn.

A display featuring a Stoney Nakoda encampment allows visitors to enter a tipi and hear Indigenous interpreters share their history through traditional stories. These interpreters are in Bar U on Saturdays and Sundays through the summer. Access the Bar U Ranch website online here.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump

Historically Indigenous people in this area were hunters and relied on the buffalo. For nearly 6,000 years, long before guns and horse were introduced to North America, the hunt saw buffalo stampeded over a cliff. This culture experienced years of plenty with good hunts and some years of shortage. Archeologists studying the site have determined the first sign of human activity in the area goes back 9,000 years. Its first use as a buffalo jump was 5,700 years ago which places its origin in time before the pyramids and before Stonehenge. Head-Smashed-In is the world’s largest, oldest and best preserved buffalo jump and has been designated a World Heritage Site by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The history and story is well told at the interpretive centre. During your tour, learn how the geography, climate and vegetation influenced the lifestyle of the Plains people by examining the many exhibits. A small theatre presents a ten minute film “In Search of the Buffalo” which features local Blackfoot actors re-enacting activities around the hunt. We have an


Your Indigenous Tourism staycation will be an excellent way to expose your family to the history and culture or various of our first nations friends. Start by booking your stay at Riverbend Campground.