Raising of St. Mary’s tipi a symbolic step in journey

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St. Mary’s University’s Director of Indigenous Initiatives Michelle Scott had a dream when she joined the institution a few years ago. That dream, to one day raise a tipi in the traditional way on the St. Mary’s campus, was realized on Monday, June 19.

Thanks to the guidance and teachings of Blackfoot Elder Randy Bottle, the dream became a reality, with the blessing of the Indigenous Advisory Council, it was deemed that the University was ready for such a significant undertaking.

“It’s a big responsibility, I feel the weight of it and the honour of it,” said Scott. “That we’ve been entrusted on this land, this university, to carry a tipi in the traditional way is really significant.”

St. Mary’s was very fortunate to have Elder Charlie Crow Chief from the Kainai Nation to come and bless the tipi during the ceremony on June 19th as well as gift us with the buttons and pegs he hand crafted with his wife Betty for the lodge.

As part of the tipi raising ceremony, Frank Turning Robe from the Siksika Nation presented St. Mary’s with an Honour song, which the school can now use at celebrations going forward.
“Every step has been done following the proper protocols and following the teachings, and now we have this story” explained Scott. “There are many things that have already happened for us to carry this tipi, but it’s only the beginning.”

“The tipi is ours, it’s not mine, it belongs to the University and it belongs to the land. The more people who feel welcomed here and honour it makes it richer as we go forward”

For recent Métis St. Mary’s graduate, Steven Showalter, having the tipi raised on campus is the culmination of a long journey.

“It feels unreal to see the tipi up, it’s pretty great,” said Showalter. “I’ve been going here for five years and we’ve wanted to bring a tipi here but now to see it’s unbelievable. It’s awesome.”

To Showalter the journey was just as important as raising the tipi itself.

“Raising the tipi in the traditional way is the most important part, the journey to get here has taken years to actually get the tipi up,” said Showalter. “To have the Blackfoot Elders here and help us has been good because we’re actually doing something not just for show, but for the right reasons.”

“St. Mary’s has always been about bringing people in and with Indigenous culture we want to teach people about it in a way that respects the traditional ways but we also want it to be inviting.”