Canadian Aboriginal peoples have the highest level of disabilities of any identifiable cultural group. Heritage is undeniably important to all peoples; for the residents of Edmonton this is important as evidenced by multi-cultural celebrations, street names, communities, and public facilities that grace our city. In Edmonton there are over 40,000 declared persons of Aboriginal descent (2001 Canada Census) and in the Region there are probably 100,000 persons of Aboriginal descent. The Aboriginal Trails Project is a grassroots, Aboriginal student-driven case study that describes an Aboriginal Heritage Water Route and an Aboriginal Heritage Land Route in the North Saskatchewan River Valley. The trail feature the life-styles of the Aboriginal peoples who, for thousands of years, inhabited the area. Our draft report includes seasonal changes and participatory activities that use all the senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell, and taste. Gender, age, and community Aboriginal life styles are included. Most of us are accustomed to travelling trails and rivers only during the day but we will feature night travel experiences as well. The Aboriginal Water Route (summer only, river ice may not be safe in winter) describes the food, modes of transport, and also the landscape and geological history – 5,000BP to the present. The Aboriginal Land Route includes the river valley from the tableland to the shallow water of the North Saskatchewan River. We see the Alberta Provincial Museum as the beginning of the trail because of the rich sources of information stored there. The trail will enable visitors to better understand and appreciate Aboriginal food gathering, shelter construction and travel activities in the river valley.
We are pleased to recognize the establishment of the Aboriginal Relations Office (http://www.edmonton.ca/city_government/city_organization/aboriginal-relations-office.aspx), the signing of the Edmonton Urban Aboriginal Accord, and the initial development of the Kihci Askiy concept into an Aboriginal cultural site.