June 26, 2018

Campfire Chats helps remove barriers on National Indigenous Peoples Day

New teepees painted, important cross-cultural connections made at annual event
The third annual Campfire Chats took place June 21, on National Indigenous Peoples Day. Activities included teepee painting, drumming and dancing, and an evening campfire chat.
The third annual Campfire Chats took place June 21, on National Indigenous Peoples Day. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

On June 21, the University of Calgary celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day at Enmax Park in partnership with the Calgary Stampede. UCalgary worked closely with its Indigenous engagement team and the Native Centre to present a full day of activities to promote dialogue, learning and participation.

“Today was an excellent reflection of ii’taa’poh’to’p, our Indigenous Strategy,” said Dr. Michael Hart, UCalgary’s vice-provost of Indigenous engagement. “In a safe place, cultures have come together to build something new, tied to our traditions as Indigenous Peoples.”

Throughout the day, volunteers and visitors came together to participate in collaborative teepee painting, led by the teepee designer, Piikani elder and UCalgary’s traditional knowledge keeper in residence, Reg Crowshoe. The afternoon showcased traditional song and dance from the drum group Eya-Hey Nakoda and the Wandering Spirit dance troupe.

“This was a perfect way to foster immersion for non-Indigenous people by experiencing the oral traditions, ceremonial process of smudging, the teepee painting process of Indigenous people,” says Crowshoe. “Taking down barriers between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people will decode reconciliation and build allies as we move ahead.”

Gathered around a campfire, the evening program featured talks about the significance of teepees in the Treaty 7 region. Reg Crowshoe and Rod Hunter, an Elder from the Bearspaw First Nation, as well as the 2018 Stampede Princess, Cieran Starlight, from Tsuut’ina, and the Calgary Stampede’s David Sibbald shared their stories.

“Teepees were the first mobile home. Women could take them down and set them up in minutes. Good luck trying to get a man to do that,” joked Rod Hunter. “Just imagine how long it took them. They had bone knives and stone knives — crude tools, but they did it, and that’s why we’re here today. We survived.”

The UCalgary community will be able to see one of the newly painted teepees at the President’s Stampede Barbecue on July 5 and intermittently around campus for teaching, learning and ceremonial activities thereafter.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, ‘in a good way,’ UCalgary will move towards genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.