When Evert Poor first started at Fort Edmonton Park 23 years ago, he was a volunteer historical interpreter in the fort. There were only two Indigenous staff members in the whole park, and the park’s inclusion of Indigenous life were but a few tipis outside the fort. Now, everything is changing, and as the Indigenous Narrative Coordinator, Evert is pushing it further.
You’ve probably already heard about the new Indigenous Peoples Experience. The impressive permanent exhibit even won an international award soon after opening, celebrated for its outstanding work in education and history. It shares the rich cultures and histories of First Nations and Métis communities in Canada, recounted from their perspectives and voices, and features hands-on displays, multimedia experiences, and interpreter interactions. But these changes aren’t just to one exhibit. Evert and his team are working hard to interweave the Indigenous narrative throughout the rest of the park as well. We caught up with Evert to learn more about these exciting changes.
What do interpreters want from visitors?
I want them to ask the hard questions. We really do. Some of those hard questions are the ones about Truth and Reconciliation, and some people are very reluctant to sometimes ask questions that are misconceptions. There’s generalizations that all Indigenous People get a free education— not true—and I can explain to a visitor why that’s a fallacy. Last year I toured a couple of writers from Denmark and the first question they asked me is, “How can there be 215 children buried in a schoolyard and most Canadians don’t know it?” I can answer those questions.
What can you share about your team?
We have some people that are very, very traditional and have a strong connection to their culture, and others that are basically rediscovering their culture (and this is a very good place to do that because you’re having an interconnection with the community.) They are sharing their history, and sometimes their own experiences within the community. We tell the story that goes back in time, but we also talk about current issues and stories in the media.
What’s in the works for this summer?
We [Indigenous Peoples] were not welcomed on the streets of Edmonton in 1905 or 1920. This year I’m actually building a reserve behind the street, because that’s where we were. In 1905 and 1920, we were not in the community. We were isolated, and that was purposely done.
What’s your favourite historical fact?
1846 were of Indigenous ancestry, and 50% of the population of 150 people were children under the age of 12. People don’t view forts as having families and having connections to the Indigenous population. There were also no permanent non-Indigenous women living in Alberta till 1870.
Discover more in person at Fort Edmonton Park | 7000–143 St. | fortedmontonpark.ca