Métis Geologist Tells the Stories of Mother Earth
By giving voice to Alberta’s geological mosaic, Keith Diakiw, CD, P.Geo., celebrates human history, Indigenous cultures—and the rock-filled past that came before us all. An Alberta professional geologist and a Métis person, he wants you to put APEGA’s first century into a context measured in billions of years.
Through Talking Rock Tours, his geo-educational hiking and sightseeing company, Keith is sharing his passion for rocks with out-of-province tourists and Albertans alike.
“Every rock and stone has a story to tell. This is science for the mind, stories from the heart, and the history of the land,” says Keith, who grew up in Hinton.
“In the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission findings, I am doing my small part to help promote pre-1867 Canadian history by sharing stories of the past. My goal is to make the Alberta tourism scene even better, as well as conduct in-school workshops to inspire the next generation of Earth scientists.”
Born in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, in 1972, Keith is a descendant of Joseph Ouellette Sr., who fought and died in the 1885 Battle of Batoche. He has three bachelor’s degrees: a science degree in physical geography, a science degree in geology, and an arts degree in anthropology and archaeology. For each of the three degrees, an elder presented him with an eagle feather.
An education like that leads to a life of paying attention to what the Earth gives up. One of his finds is a razor clam fossil he found at a work site north of Fort McMurray. It’s on display at the Royal Tyrrell Museum.
Keith began sharing his knowledge as a university student, when he volunteered with APEGA to take science to Albertans of all ages through programs like the annual Rock and Fossil Clinic. At the clinic, members of the public arrive with items for people like Keith to examine and identify.
Ever since, he’s wanted to start his own company. “When I was suddenly let go from working in the oil sands during the last downturn, I made the decision to go for it!” he explains.
Now back at work as a production geologist at another oil sands mine, Keith runs Talking Rock Tours on his days off. He’s also a naval reservist who parades during the winter with HMCS Nonsuch, a land-based naval establishment.
Five current or recent tours offered by Talking Rock are:
- Edmonton Oil and Gas, which takes guests back to Leduc No. 1 and the start of the Alberta oil boom, in 1947
- Edmonton River Valley, which explores an historic meeting place with over 11,000 years of continuous occupation
- Nordegg, which follows in the footsteps of explorer David Thompson
- Badlands, which explores Drumheller and Dinosaur Provincial Park
- Elk Island National Park, which features hiking, canoeing, and—while participants cook their own bannock—the sharing of stories around a campfire
It all sounds fascinating and fun, but there’s an ultimate goal behind Talking Rock Tours: to inspire Indigenous Earth scientists from across Alberta and around the world to educate the public about their region’s natural and cultural history. Keith also hopes that other Alberta geoscientists will pay it forward by mentoring a new generation of Earth scientists “into the next 100 years of APEGA history.”
He continues: “I see myself as a keeper of the Earth. There are better methodologies to strive for in sustainable mining, while respecting the environment and nearby residents. We all need to be proactive in our own small way.
We know that climate change is upon us. It’s time to join the movement for a better state of Mother Earth. We need to move back to strong communities interconnected with nature—and towards a better future for everyone.”