As Dion Red Gun looks out over a valley on Siksika reserve land, southeast of Calgary, he paints a picture of his First Nation’s long-standing connection to the land.
“Picture this valley, there was no trees … there was a whole sun dance ceremony where people gathered,” he said
“Imagine, with their horses coming in.” He pauses, before diving into an explanation of how buffalo jumps worked in the area, thousands of years ago.
Red Gun runs River Ranche Tourism, giving visitors an in-depth traditional experience from day trips to ancestral landmarks, canoe excursions to traditional meals.
Like many other industries, the past year has been a matter of survival for Indigenous tourism operators in Alberta.
“International visits just dried up. It was a dramatic or very traumatizing moment too,” he said.
Red Gun said before the third wave of COVID-19 cases hit the province, things had somewhat recovered — students were being bused in to hand-make drums or harvest sweetgrass…