Building Bridges in the Cultural Trade Route During Covid

By Dawn Saunders Dahl, Manager of Indigenous Relationships and Programs


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Building Bridges through the Cultural Trade Route is a program focused on continued, genuine relationship building through active listening, dialogue, and inclusion. This is specifically between Stoney Nakoda (Wesley, Chiniki, and Bearspaw First Nations), with future goals to extend to other surrounding Indigenous communities: Ktunaxa, Secwépemc, Cree, Tsuut’ina, Siksikam, Kainai, Piikani, and Mètis. We have shifted programming to be delivered outside and virtually, where continued education opportunities can be provided for Indigenous and non-Indigenous members to learn and break down barriers that, in turn, will enable future relationships when we can safely gather again in the museum and beyond.


What have we been doing?


Seasonal Walk and Tea, Summer 2020

Surrounding Indigenous communities, specifically the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, expressed a direct need for professional development mentorship programming. These initiatives in development seek to balance traditional ways of knowing with informal and formal approaches to education and training. We are interested in expanding program-based initiatives around professional development with Indigenous community members led by the Manager of Indigenous Relations and Programs, Dawn Saunders Dahl. In 2020, we have developed new partnerships and initiatives such as:

  • On the Whyte Museum grounds, a temporary mural was installed during Alberta Culture Days in September 2020, with Nakoda artists Kyle Kaquitts, Jaron Poucette and Chris Morin, led by Artist AJ Louden. Also, in September, with the Museum’s new partner, the Bow Valley Food Alliance, we piloted the first Stoney Nakoda seasonal Walk and Tea with Phillomene and Tracey Stevens.

  • Indigenous information sessions such as The Land We Are On: A Presentation about Land Acknowledgement Statements and What They Mean - YouTube, along with food making initiatives Bannock and Stew with Phillomene and Tracey Stevens - YouTube, and the Medicine Walk with Phillomene and Tracey Stevens - YouTube have been posted on the Whyte Museum YouTube channel.

  • Continued consultation with the rotating Indigenous Advisory group (online and socially distanced) about Indigenous initiatives, as well as creating an Indigenous welcome message and land acknowledgement has been installed in the entrance of the Museum.

  • Continued development and implementation of staff training around Indigenous history and issues, inclusion, diversity, and anti-racism training.


Buffalo Hide Repair with Phillomene and Tracey Stevens

What we are continuing to do in 2021!

  • We have partnered with Chiniki College to deliver the Martin Family Entrepreneurship course. We are currently piloting the course with Stoney Nakoda community members to ensure Nakoda input is in the program. Plans to deliver the course in the fall to students at Chiniki College.

  • Indigenous led tours, workshops, and education including the Stoney Nakoda history and language class, Indigenous seasonal education sessions, seasonal walks, and teas, an Indigenous-led historic home tour, and an Indigenous History – Living with Nature program is in development with Bow Valley Partners. These sessions will be delivered outside and will also incorporate future opportunities to mentor Indigenous students. Check out the events on the Whyte Museum website for more information.

  • Consultation with the Stoney community has identified an urgent need to document and record Stoney language and life today. We have plans to continue to build an oral history project alongside the ongoing engagement with the Nakoda AV Club. This oral history project includes the recording the stories of Elders and community members have with the land and those who had relationships with the Whyte family into the creation of a public art sound installation on the Whyte Museum grounds. The Museum Archives staff also have plans to continue the Recognizing Relations identification program.

  • We will continue to find opportunities to draw on traditional Knowledge Keepers around the collections at the Whyte Museum to result in future exhibitions and programs that strengthen the voice of Indigenous Peoples at the Museum.

  • The recording of a cultural appropriation session in partnership with Troy Patenaude from Fort Calgary, Christine Frederick from Dreamspeakers, Rubaboo Festivals, and Melrene Salroy from Native Diva Creations will be delivered by National Indigenous Peoples Day, June 21.


Providing safe and brave environments, we encourage reconcili-ACTION by inciting genuine dialogue and trust-building through collaborative community-driven art and culture-based activities, workshops, and events both within the Museum and off-site. Women of all ages attend classes at Chiniki College where we have talked about how women do not feel valued in the job force and that no one outside or within the reserve is hiring older women. Although the initiatives we are developing are available for all genders and ages, opportunities where the students can see themselves in positions within and outside of the reserve, will increase confidence among the mothers, sisters, and daughters of Morley. With this in mind we have committed to:

  • Pilot and deliver the Martin Family Initiatives Entrepreneur course.

  • Continue to provide art-based tools and professional development workshops for Chiniki College students and Indigenous artists.

  • Lay the foundation for future internships and staffing positions at the Whyte Museum and builds capacity. We have started to develop up to 10 Indigenous specific positions within the Whyte Museum are in development, including contract positions.


The Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies will continue to serve as a community leader, resource, and forum that reflects the rich historical presence and ongoing contribution of Indigenous Peoples in the Bow Valley Region. We will encourage all participants, visitors and residents to reflect on our collective history, explore how making and shared creativity spark powerful conversations to become useful tools for future generations. We look forward to welcoming you back to the Museum to join us in these initiatives.


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