Every year a special event is held that brings light to the ways of the West before it was won.
Interpreters from over Alberta, and Saskatchewan, gather in Cypress Hills to put on a couple information days for any group of students who want to participate.
For 10 years, History in the Hills has been a growing program that gives students from all over the chance to interactively learn about the history of Southern Alberta, and the surrounding areas.
“History in the Hills is a cultural program that is put on each year that covers many aspects of the school curriculum,” said Deborah Lloyd, FNMI Education Coordinator.
“We’ve developed so that we have venues set up in a camp circle, and the schools go through each venue on a 20 minute rotation, and they learn about different aspects of the culture of the people who inhabited this area since time in memorial.”
According to Lloyd, the archaeological dig, which has also been in this location for many years, has dug down 8,000 years and has shown that in the Cypress Hills, there has been a native American camp for about that long.
“For every 100 years they have been able to unearth a campsite and they are almost on top of each other. They show that there are different groups that move through each century.
“That is proof that this land was utilized by all these different culture groups of aboriginal people.”
Because of this, Lloyd said that every year when they hold History in the Hills, they try to invite as many aboriginal groups as they can to be presenters.
Lloyd also said that they have different partnerships with various other provincial parks to help provide information.
Everywhere from Writing on Stone Provincial Park, to Fort Walsh Provincial Park show from the new prospective how the parks are used.
“It gives the kids a huge cross section of things to draw from for the curriculum. Each year we bring out hundreds of kids.”
According to Lloyd, in the 10 years History in the Hills has been running, thousands of kids have been exposed to the indigenous culture of the event.
Lloyd stated that since putting together a proposal and submitting it to the Medicine Hat 76 School Board, schools all the way from Manitoba, to Cranbrook, to Peace River have attended the event.
“People hear about it, they want to be here, they come. We’ve had people from Australia, China, Japan, it is amazing. It is becoming a world-class event.
“We are trying to keep it rustic. We don’t want to commercialize.”
Lloyd said that usually History in the Hills runs four days, but because of budget restraints this year the event was only three days, which worked out due to the horrid weather on Tuesday, in the Cypress Hills.
Although Friday was the last day for the event, all next week the site will be utilized as well by a classroom from the Medicine Hat Christian School.
“Every aspect of their curriculum is taught from an indigenous perspective, and this area becomes their classroom.”
Lloyd calls this outdoor classroom part of the Open Minds program, which according to her, they will slow everything down and make sure that the children are receiving authentic learning.
These students, over the course of the week, will picture journal, and will reflect on everything learned.
“It’s not the field trip experience. It is, ‘This is your classroom.’ And so when they are studying math we are going to take that tepee and look at the angles and the design.
“You can apply math to so many things in the camp setting. There are so many areas you can draw from. And the language arts, social studies, science.”
Lloyd said that for the science aspect of the week, they do a medicine walk up the side hill, and talk about all the scientific connections with what the traditional medicines are, and what the derivatives are in today’s medicine.
The students also spend one night at the site, where they sleep in the tepees and spend the time studying the stars.
Although History in the Hills isn’t open to the public, it is not something Lloyd said she has ruled out all together.
“Right now most of our funding is coming from the schools, and because my job is within the school district and it takes so much energy to put in that work week with the schools, it is really hard to move into working the whole weekend as well and putting it out there for the general public.”
Lloyd said that the real reason is the manpower issue, and that they don’t have the funding to pay the people to work more than they do already.
“It is a beautiful experience for anyone who wants to come. Though we are not open to the public, we take the public. If people want to come, they can come; they just pay their fee. But we don’t advertise it as a public event.”
Even though Lloyd would like to one day open it to the public, she said that she is happy with the success it has had so far with the students who attend.
“It is my hope that students will have one of the richest experiences that they have every had in their entire lives to understand and know more about native culture, and that it will be an experience they can carry with them for the rest of their lives.