Students at King George School helped raise a teepee on Sept. 28 while learning about Indigenous culture, the various First Nations teepee raising ceremonies, and the meaning behind the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
"This is a great opportunity to get the students involved with Truth and Reconciliation and to recognize all the events that are happening in Moose Jaw to commemorate that day," said Nicole Milligan, a Grade 5 teacher at King George who was acting principal for the day.
"We're doing a teepee raising, and we know there is a (Every Child Matters) powwow happening at the Western Development Museum, so we certainly encourage families and children to get out for that on the weekend if they can."
The teepee raising was overseen by Kelly Grass, a former teacher at Riverview Collegiate who worked as an Indigenous liaison for years. Grass led a Treaty 4 Indigenous culture group and worked with elders and traditional knowledge keepers to learn correct ceremonies and procedures.
"I am not Indigenous," Grass clarified, "but I've done a lot of work with Indigenous elders, so I know a lot about teepee raising."
Grass said he has studied the proper customs and ceremonial traditions for many years, and has been supervised by Indigenous elders who gave their approval so he could help teach others about First Nations cultures.
"This is the first time they've set this teepee up, so there's a bit more of a ceremony that we'll have to do because of that," Grass explained.
"There's certain protocols when you raise a teepee for the first time. For example, the door should be facing east and we'll use sweet grass as a medicine to smudge the four directions around the teepee . And there are variations among all the First Nations, of course, but I can only teach the ones I know.
"For many of these students, it will be the first time they've seen a teepee raising, so hopefully they take these ideas away as food for thought, and for future Truth and Reconciliation days they can pass their knowledge along and be able to raise this teepee themselves."
Cassidy Olson teaches Grade 5 at King George. She is from Whitecap Dakota First Nation outside Saskatoon. She explained that each of the 15 poles has a meaning that the students would be introduced to. For example, the first three poles, which form the foundation, symbolize Obedience, Respect, and Humility.
"Our students are going to be part of building the teepee, creating it, and learning the teachings that go along with it, so they're very eager to get out and get started," Olson said before the ceremony. "When you raise a teepee, each pole means something, and then it all comes together.
"We were fortunate to get our own teepee this year, it's an eight-foot teepee owned by the school. And we've talked a lot in our classrooms about our circles and how everything intertwines, how our different systems and ways of being come together, so I hope they'll feel that today as they help raise this teepee."
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