Métis Crossing


April 7, 2024

Words by: Twyla Campbell

Photography by: Indigenous Tourism Alberta

Connect with the land, the people and their culture

Named for the area where Métis people gathered to access fishing grounds in one direction, and the grasslands with buffalo in another, Métis Crossing is located within the Victoria District National Historic Site, 120 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. Since the opening of the Cultural Gathering Centre in 2019, the Crossing has become a one-of-a-kind Indigenous tourism destination. Thousands of people from all over the world land on its doorstep to learn about the rich heritage and traditions of the Métis people.

“Everything we put out there—on the trails, or in the ground or lodge itself—is to share and celebrate the Métis culture with all people,” says Juanita Marois, CEO. “We want to add the Métis perspective on how Canada developed. We want to touch people’s hearts with the history and stories we tell, and we want people to leave Métis Crossing with a different worldview than what they had when they arrived.” Marois explains that interacting with Métis people, seeing children running and playing, and taking part in interactive activities like archery, crafts and canoeing, helps to make that happen. 

The Lodge opened in 2022 and was designed by Métis architect, Tiffany Shaw-Collinge who also designed the Gathering Centre. The 40-room boutique hotel offers accommodation for out-of-towners or people who’ve booked the facilities for special occasions like weddings and reunions. The 2-storey fireplace in the lobby is an anchoring focal point, and decor elements made from stone and wood plus expansive views of the river and fields, directly connect the viewer to the land. Handmade quilts make every well-appointed room unique and cozy, and a connected boardwalk allows guests to learn about Métis history and culture by exploring heritage buildings, artifacts and installations along the way.

The property is open to visitors every day of the year with planned activities depending on the season. While the spectacular northern lights are best seen from November through February, taking in the night sky does the body (and the soul) good any time of year—especially when viewed through the clear ceilings of the luxurious, geodesic Sky Watching Domes.

“The domes are an elevated experience; it’s not camping—or even glamping,” Marois explains, pointing out that all units are equipped with air conditioning, heating, a full bathroom and kitchenette. “The energy of aurora [borealis] is always there, it’s just easier to see them at certain times of the year.” 

Before settling here in the 1800s, the nomadic Métis lived in small camps as they moved across the plains, using the skies as a natural guide to hunt, trap, plant, and harvest crops throughout the year. Take part in Whispers From the Stars, a night of stargazing and folklore, and you might hear a story told to children warning them that the dancing northern lights would snatch them up should they stray too close to the Boreal forest, home to wolves and bears. “It was a way to manage the children,” Marois offers, adding that the lights are also believed to be the spirits of ancestors who guide their people in day-to-day activities. 

You will witness wildlife at the Crossing, particularly if you visit the Visions, Hopes and Dreams wildlife park, a 320-acre enclosed area, home to several elk and three bison herds, including wood, plains and the rare white bison. A guided tour takes visitors through the area by vehicle where they learn about the important roles played by these animals in Métis history. Horses, too, are an integral part of the culture and tradition. The majestic Percherons you might see on the tour are working members of the Crossing and are used to pull sleighs in winter, and Red River carts in warmer months. 

Set time aside for the Gathering Centre and enjoy a meal at the cafe or browse through the gift shop for a souvenir of this unique experience. Artwork, crafts and jewellery are handmade by Métis artisans. Purchase a book for a lasting resource about this distinct Indigenous group of people, and the historic site they called home. Share it with your friends, or better yet, bring them back with you when you return. 


Share this article:

Places To Be

See this month's local flavours, products, and services.