Meet Matricia Bauer, the Alberta local indigenising the world one drumbeat at a time

After reconnecting with her Cree heritage, Matricia Bauer founded Warrior Women, an initiative that creates indigenous experiences for travellers to Jasper National Park...

5 mins

In the first years of Matricia Bauer's life, she felt a part of her was missing. As a child, she was removed from her family during the Sixties Scoop in Canada, and therefore separated from her indigenous upbringing. But as she grew older, she found her way back, and has spent the past two decades reconnecting with Cree culture. 

Now, Matricia – also called Iskatochitawachiy (She who moves mountains) – is the person behind Warrior Women, an indigenous experience company that educates and entertains travellers with workshops, fireside chats and nature walks. Originally from Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation in northern Alberta, Matricia currently resides in Jasper National Park in the Rocky Mountains, an area which attracts 20 million visitors every year and where she 'indigenises the world, one drum beat at a time'.

We get to know Matricia and learn more about her indigenous heritage, the experiences Warrior Women offers and the importance of educating others about indigenous culture.

Thanks for speaking with me today Matricia! I thought we should start from the beginning. Can you tell me how you found your way back to indigenous roots, after being disconnected from it at a young age?

I was adopted when I was five. It was an open adoption so I knew I was indigenous, and that I was being adopted into an English family. For the most part, my family did keep that thread available to me and that conversation going that I was indigenous. Growing up, it was pretty idyllic childhood; normal, Canadian, multicultural, regular public school. It wasn't until I think it was really in my 20s that it started to affect me more. I think that the more colonised I became the more unhappy I became. I was trying to figure out what exactly that what it was that I was trying to numb in myself.

Then I got married and had children, and when I saw their little brown faces looking back at me, I saw a lot of myself in them. And I was wondering how I could raise them within their cultures in a way that they would feel proud about who they were, as opposed to conflicted like I was.

I started exploring all the beautiful parts of my culture and because I had graduated from university with a voice diploma, I went down that avenue. I built a drum and started drumming and singing with several different women that took me under their wing and mentored and shared songs with me. We created this community. And then I started practising more ceremony and reconnecting with my language. I think the more that I learned about that, the more connected I became and the more I realised that my culture that I kept at bay, was actually what I needed to heal. So it took a while to step in to who I am today, but I'm really glad I made the journey.

How does it feel to be reconnected with your indigenous heritage again?

It feels really grounding. There’s a lot of life lessons to be learned in indigenous way. We're very connected to the land, are very connected to natural resources. We have a lot of teachings around taking care of the biodiversity in Canada. Also, I think that in order for those stories to exist in the future, we have to make sure that we're practising those customs today and passing them on to our children. So, I've taken more of a mentor ship role within my community, and there's several young women that that I guide and they're going to definitely be a driving force and have a voice for the future. So that helps leave a legacy.

And this reconnection led you to starting Warrior Women. When did this idea originate?

I started Warrior Woman about 20 years ago, and before it took its current form as a limited company, it was it was a drumming group. We were a group of women that would drum and sing together and my daughter eventually became part of that.

Then 10 years ago, I decided to move to Jasper permanently, and its proximity to tourism was a natural fit. I still very much consider myself an info-tainer; somebody who educates and also entertains, because the mandate of my businesses to indigenise people one drumbeat at a time. I always implement that musical piece, because music is such a universal language. And it allows people to feel with their heart instead of think with their brain. And as eloquent as, as a speaker, as I may or may not be music, it affects people in a totally different level. It often breaks down barriers, so I always start and end with a song, even in my professional speaking engagements. You can say fairly political things in music that you can't always say in your regular speech. So my elder told me it was a gift to start with song because she said, people will always forget what you said, but they'll never forget how you made them feel, and they'll think about your words later. So yes, I’m a singer, drummer, storyteller, educator, I think those are all sort of words that I've played around and used at lots of different avenues, but mostly in the vein of tourism now.

Why is drumming such an important part of being Cree?

Drumming is considered sacred practice, we believe that when we drum and sing that, we have a direct connection to the Creator. And in this beautiful way, he is able to hear and see everything that happens around the drum. So it comes with its set of protocols and responsibilities. It is a very powerful tool. I don't think that everybody is cut out to be a drummer as it attracts a lot of attention.

I had once had a mentor who said to me “anything that happens around the drum happens to all of the drummers”. And that really hit home with me. So in tourism, that could be their one and only experience with somebody at the drum, and so if I diminish that experience, I diminish it for the entire indigenous race, and they may never, ever get a second chance at seeing somebody who does it really well. So, my expectation of myself is a lot higher because I want people to come away with an authentic and original experience. I take that responsibility, and that privilege.

What experiences does Warrior Women offer?

We have the fireside chat, which is basically sort of like what we're doing right now. It's a two-way conversation, where we’re usually outside bundled up around a fire, and drinking a nice warm tea. It’s dark, and we can look at the stars. Once I lull everybody into a sense of security, then we have a deep and meaningful conversation. Usually, I have a topic and I introduce my own personal story, and I'm very honest with that. And it allows people to really talk about the topics that they want to talk about. Lots of people come to me with questions or a real open mind and open heart, so I'm very flexible with how the conversation flows. I never have more than 10 to 20 people at the experience so it is usually quite intimate and people feel quite safe within that space.

And then the Wapakwanis Plant Walk is also very similar in the fact that we have a conversation, but the conversation is more about the flora that we see. Indigenous people call the flowers, grasses, trees and shrubs our plant relatives. For 10,000 years we haven't had access to grocery stores and pharmacies, so what we've been able to find through foraging and harvesting and curating has kept us alive and well. And we still use a lot of that herbology in our everyday lives. We still gather our teas, and for the winter, we still dry our meats, we still harvest our fish, we still hunt traditionally. The Wapakwanis Plant Walk takes the individual through the unique flora Rocky Mountains and allows people to see the floor through an indigenous lens. This is quite interesting to see, because I find that there's a lot of plant blindness, with most individuals not really seeing the benefit of what is available in nature.

What do you find people usually see?

I ask them, and they just see green stuff, trees and forest, so they really have a lack that detail and trained eye to see the nuances of what can cure and heal ourselves. When I talk about medicine in an indigenous way, I'm talking about aligning the body, the mind and the spirit. So not necessarily healing a cut, but sort of aligning the entire structure in a more holistic way. Harvesting and foraging is food sovereignty and health sovereignty, and that's very empowering.

As well as this new appreciation of nature, what do you hope people take away from these experiences with Warrior Women?

My hope is that I scratch the surface of interest for the average person, and that then they go away feeling like “I need to know more about” or “I need to connect with nature on a deeper level when I get home”, or maybe “I need to pick up a book about indigenous culture so that I can dive a little deeper into this way of life”. But at the at the base level, I really want to create a relationship, and by being open and honest, creating relationships is really key to decolonisation. We choose to take up space and be loud in our existence. Because we you know, we're here today and we want to exist tomorrow as well.

Jasper National Park is a dark sky reserve (Shutterstock)

Jasper National Park is a dark sky reserve (Shutterstock)

 Why is Jasper Park such an important area for the Cree community?

So the indigenous community call Jasper the medicine bundle of Turtle Island. There’s so much spirituality there. It's also one of the largest dark sky preserves; it is the largest dark sky preserve in North America, and the second largest dark sky preserve in the world. What that means is that you can see the entire Milky Way with the naked eye. It's unreal to be able to look up at the sky and just see every single sparkling star within it. From an indigenous perspective, we have our own stories on every single constellation that exist, and even our beautiful creation story comes with star woman.

Star woman fell from the skies and was caught by the geese and put onto the back of the turtle. And with the help of the animals, she created North America as we know it today. We know scientifically that we actually do have star dust within us, but our even our word for spirit is ahcâhk, which is literally a piece of the star, which is acakosuk.

So at a core level, understanding our star stories helps us understand ourselves. And every single one of the constellations has a story and a song. I could sit here and talk to you for two days about all of the different constellation stories and songs. And through those history teachings, it teaches us about our community and our lessons that have been around for since time immemorial.


To learn more about Warrior Women and the experiences they run, head to

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