"I am a knowledge keeper that has been gifted with the teachings of Plant Medicine from my grandmother," says Brenda Holder, owner of Mahikan Trails, an Indigenous tour company based in the small Albertan town of Sundre, about 120 km north of Calgary.
Mahikan Trails offers visitors a different perspective of the Rocky Mountains — one that comes from thousands of years of traditional knowledge about the land, flora, and fauna.
"I started Mahikan Trails when I realized not all people grew up with the teachings I was given by my family and ancestors," Brenda says. "It was also a great opportunity to share my culture with people who do not understand Indigenous culture, traditions, and people."
Year-round, guests can join an Indigenous guide for a medicine walk in Sundre or Banff. While surrounded by the beauty of the mountain vistas, participants learn about the plants growing all around them and the traditional uses they have for healing, as well as the history and significance of the land.
Walks are offered in Sundre and in Cascade Ponds in Banff National Park.
In addition to the walks, Brenda also offers hands-on workshops that utilize the plants. This includes lessons in making soaps, salves, and lotions, as well as medicine making and plant first-aid. Guests leave with their own first aid kit and knowledge on how to use plants as medicine in everyday life and in wilderness situations where first aid is critical.
"I am a knowledge keeper that has been gifted with the teachings of Plant Medicine from my grandmother."
While Brenda says she enjoys all seasons, the fall is a particularly interesting time to be in nature.
"Autumn is a special time for medicine. We are at the peak of harvesting medicine and learning the teachings the land has to offer through stories, songs, walks and just being on the land," she says.
To see the full beauty of fall, Brenda recommends taking a hike up to the Lake Louise Tea House, which she calls "spectacular." But her favourite fall thing to do is actually more mellow.
"I am always loving the chance to go get a coffee from Beamers and then go sit up on the Benchlands to take in the view, the eagles, and the last dwindling warmth of the season."