Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do…
My name is Quinton, the second youngest of five boys, no sisters. My Blackfoot Indian name is Kainiakoan meaning Many Chiefs, given to me by my late grandfather. I am a member of the Piikani First Nation, located in South-western Alberta, one of the four communities that make up the greater Blackfoot confederacy. I was born and raised in the Piikani community with strong traditional values.
I’ve worked beyond the reserve parameters for 29 years. I have travelled many places and visited many cities including across the great waters. I have a passion for building awareness and pride of First Nation people and creating an awareness and better understanding for all.
My lifetime partner Debbie and I have children and young grandchildren of whom we treasure and spend a big part of our lives with.
Currently I am the Special Events Coordinator and Marketing for Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. I spend a lot of my time promoting and protecting this special place.
Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump’ is a memorable name, where did it come from?
Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump is one of many sacred places within the traditional domain of the first peoples on the plains, also one of the oldest, largest and best preserved jumps on the North Western Plains. Today this site remains held in high regard amongst the Blackfoot plains people.
This sacred site is now a UNESCO world heritage site dating back 6000 years. My ancestors were herding up the Buffalo and running them over cliffs before the pyramids were being built in Egypt. The last time this site was used was in the middle of the 1800’s.
A long time ago, according to the legend, the people were driving buffalo over these sandstone cliffs. A young brave wanted to watch the buffalo tumbling past. Standing under the shelter of a ledge, as if behind a waterfall, he watched the great beasts fall. The hunt was unusually good that day and as the bodies piled up, he became trapped between the animals and the cliffs. When the people came to do the butchering, they found him with his skull crushed by the weight of the buffalo carcasses. Thus they named this place “Head Smashed In”.
What part of Alberta, for you, holds the most magic?
I am entrenched in the way of my ancestors and guided by the elders today. It is this that holds magic through the stories, guidance and their wisdom. To share this unique experience with visitors from around the world is spectacular. For Alberta’s first nation’s people our tourism experiences come from the lands and the stories, song and dances that are derived from the land. These authentic experiences are carefully and respectfully created in conjunction with today’s tourism industry leaders.
Where should we go to learn the story of Alberta’s heritage?
A visitor can find experiences all over the Province of Alberta. There are 45 First Nations in three treaty areas within the Province of Alberta. Each community is unique in its own way and can offer authentic tourism experiences. With the continued support of Travel Alberta and the many tourism leaders across the province these experiences can be developed, nurtured and become product ready. Today there are places like Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump, Writing on Stone park, Blackfoot Historical Park and many other experiences that visitors can go. There are Forts and museums that include first nation stories and experiences. There is an established pow wow trail across North America which includes the many communities in Alberta. Our province has some of the best first nation dancers and drummers in North America. These pow wows are open to visitors. I encourage folks to seek out a powwow in the summer time and witness these large encampments and see the lifestyles, culture and history. Pow wows also feature traditional games, sports and vendors selling crafts and traditional foods. Visitors can stop by one of the many information centres located across the province and get more information.
When you’re not working, where do you go to unwind?
You will find me at the hockey arena or ball field. Otherwise I am at the river with my children and grandchildren. Together we travel the pow wow trail. It is a goal of mine to instil pride and identity in my family. I can be found in my lazy boy at times too!
Where should we go to witness Alberta’s most spectacular scenery?
I just love the beauty of the mountains and the foothills that connect below. (South Western Alberta) There are Blackfoot stories of creation that connect me spiritually to this place and I am sure that folks that visit this area feel the spirit of the mountains and where the plains connect. The view is outstanding especially at sunset.
If we’ve only got one day in Alberta, what should we do?
Leave Calgary at 8am. Travel to Southern Alberta, (highway #2) see where the prairies meet the mountains, taste some of the food in the area, visit Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump as a start. Make your way to Waterton Lakes national Park, another UNESCO world heritage site. Hike some of the world’s best hiking trails while in Waterton. Make some time to visit some of the historic sites and museums such as Frank Slide. Frank Slide tells the story of Canada’s worst rock disaster. The Frank Slide Interpretive centre is situated in the Crows Nest pass. From Frank slide you can make your way back to Calgary on Highway 22X. This highway runs along the base of the Rocky Mountains. If time permits you can stop at the historic Bar U Ranch. The Bar U ranch is right along highway 22X.
What is your favourite time of the year and why?
I just love the winter time. I am an outdoor person. I have a passion in seeking out outdoor ice where I can skate and take my family. I love looking for hills to sled. I once went to Dawson City and witnessed this lifestyle first hand and also witnessed a dog sled race.
Alberta is a place of wonderful contrasts; do you think it’s important to experience both the urban and the rural sides of the province?
Yes, our cities and towns have lots to offer. There are great experiences for young, middle aged and the older folks. You can find museums, zoos, parks, unique foods, historic buildings, and many hidden treasures. These cities and towns along with the rural folks are what make up the fabric of Alberta.
Finally – describe Alberta in just three words…
REMEMBER TO BREATHE…
(I took this phrase from travel Alberta!)
QUINTON’S TOP 5
Discover the beauty of South Western Alberta’s mountains
Hike some of the world’s best trails in Waterton
Stop at the historic Bar U Ranch
Visit Head Smashed in Buffalo Jump
See the Blackfoot Historical Park