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Where in Alberta?

Based on clues from pictures provided, match the regions of Alberta with the First Nations people and language groups that lived there.

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

In this challenge, students learn about the cultural and linguistic diversity of First Nations people who have always called Alberta their home and use clues from pictures to identify the natural regions where First Nations people lived before Europeans arrived.

Activity 1
Review what students know about the natural regions of Alberta, including:

  • Parkland
  • Boreal Forest
  • Canadian Shield
  • Grassland
  • Foothills
  • Rocky Mountain.

If students have not previously studied these regions, compile photographs, drawings or paintings that represent the regions before and after European settlement in the 19th century. As much as possible, locate pictures that present different seasons and capture the landscape, climate, animal and plant life, soils and land surfaces of the regions. Display the pictures, but do not reveal which region each picture represents. Invite students to work with a partner to group the pictures into similar regions. Then, ask them to summarize the information extracted from the pictures in a chart, like the following.

Natural Regions or Ecozones


Natural Features







cold winters with significant snow; hot dry summers




Land Surface/Soils


flatland; gentle rolling hills; deep river valleys




Plant Life


grasses and few trees




Animal Life


bison, antelope, deer, elk, prairie chicken and fish




Invite students to place pictures on a large outline map of Alberta, according to the areas they believe the pictures represent. You might also make available other maps of the province, such as climate, vegetation and physiographic maps, as well as the ecozone map of Alberta developed by Environment Canada (see References), and discuss the similarities and differences between the natural regions identified by students and those identified by scientists.

Activity 2
Collect photographs, drawings and paintings of the diverse First Nations people who lived in each region of Alberta in the 19th century. Select pictures that show people, housing, equipment, customs or other aspects of the culture or daily life. Ensure the pictures provide clues about the kinds of environment in which the groups traditionally lived. Good sources of photographs include the National Archives and the Glenbow Archives (see References). See Investigating Pictures (Modelling the Tools) for detailed instruction for teaching and assessing the tools for picture analysis.

Give each group of students a few images to examine and ask students to record any clues they see in the pictures about the region where the people lived and how the natural environment shaped their lifestyle. Guide students by noting special aspects of the images; for example, if the picture shows buffalo hunters on the plains, students might conclude these people lived on the prairies and hunted buffalo for food and used buffalo skins for clothing. If their homes were teepees made of hides, what might this say about the environment they lived in and their way of life? You may want to provide students with the following questions to guide their analysis of the images.


  1. What is the landscape like? lakes? prairie? hills?
  2. What plant life is visible in the image? trees? grasses?
  3. What is the climate like? snow? wet? dry?
  4. What animal life is visible in the images? bison? deer? elk? caribou? horses?

Connections between People and Their Environment

  1. What types of clothing are the people wearing? What are they made of?
  2. What types of homes are the people living in? What materials were used to make the homes? Are the homes permanent or temporary? Did the people settle permanently in one location or migrate with the seasons?
  3. What food sources are visible in the image?
  4. What does the image tell us about the people and their relationship to the land?

Consider adapting the charts and strategies for Supporting Conclusions (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Activity 3
Ask students to use what they know about the environment of each region to match the First Nations people with the area in which they lived. To assist students, you might limit their choice between which of two First Nations people was more likely to have lived on, for example, the grasslands. Ask students to present their conclusions and evidence and to add the images to the large classroom outline map of the province. You may then reveal the names of the First Nations people, along with other information about the images, such as the date and location of the image.

Activity 4
At this point, you may wish to show the class two maps, one representing Aboriginal peoples in Alberta in the 1900s and another representing Aboriginal language communities. This information can also be added to the large classroom map. Different First Nations will belong to the same language group. For example, in Alberta, today, there are 46 First Nations (see References). The most commonly spoken languages are:

  • Blackfoot
  • Cree
  • Chipweyan
  • Dene
  • Sarcee
  • Stoney (Nakoda Sioux).

In addition, there are approximately 65 locals of the Métis Nations of Alberta and eight Métis Settlements. Some Métis people speak Michief. Approximately 1000 Inuit people live in Alberta, in various communities. Discuss how a culture involves much more than language–Aboriginal groups may share a common language and yet represent different cultural groups, just as people from Britain and the United States both speak English but are culturally unique.

According to UNESCO's (1996) Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing, a language is considered endangered if it is not learned by at least 30% of children in the community. Discuss the significance of language for Aboriginal communities, including the role languages play in preserving people's way of life, culture and group identity, and the danger of some First Nations languages becoming extinct. What consequences would arise if a language is lost? Consider using a Web of Effects (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity. Direct students to place the phrase Loss of Language in the centre of the web and then map out possible consequences, such as loss of legends, traditions, songs, words that represent specific behaviour or beliefs, ability to communicate with Elders.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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