Grades 4 and 10 students within the Medicine Hat Public School Division (MHPSD) took part in KisKihkeyimowin — from Plains Cree and translating to shared good teachings — on Monday. Several tipis were set up in the open area beside the pond at Medicine Hat College (MHC) for the students to engage in new yet old ways of learning about Blackfoot, Cree and Metis cultures, teachings and traditions.
For opening day, grade 10 students from Crescent Heights High School were there helping to erect tipis, which one student explained required lots of teamwork. Students wanted to be there to learn more about Indigenous culture and spend the day outside doing something different from normal schoolwork.
The opening ceremony began with a procession from the tipis into the college gymnasium. The Crestwood School drummers led the procession, followed by Elder Charlie Fox, other flag bearers and then students and teachers.
Darrell Willier, the First Nations, Metis and Inuit coordinator with division, welcomed everyone and explained it was a three-year process to make the event happen due to the pandemic. Willier told those gathered they were glad to be there to share their culture and teachings and said, “this is a great opportunity, it means a lot to us.”
After a prayer by Fox, the three dancers — two jingle dress dancers and one fancy dress dancer — took to the floor accompanied by the drummers. Jingle dress dancer Josie Saddleback explained her dancing history along with the history behind the dance and why it is considered a healing dance. Between the two dances, she told the crowd about the difference between powwows and competition powwows. At a competition powwow, dancers compete against one another and proper footwork is one of the criteria that is judged.
Following the dancing, the closing ceremony ended and the students all headed back outside to the tipis for their sessions. Grade 10 students were going to learn Cree flute, finger weaving, Medicine Wheel, circle of courage and a hide story. The next three days are reserved for Grade 4 students across the division who will participate in workshops on Metis jigging, dreamcatchers, finger weaving, beading, a smudging and talking circle, the circle of courage and games.
On the final day, Wednesday, Grade 10 students from Medicine Hat High School, will take part in the same sessions as the Crescent Heights students except they will be assisting with taking the tipis down rather than putting them up.
The event was held in partnership with Medicine Hat College and Miywasin Friendship Centre and is another step towards building a road for all nations. The tipis will be up for the remainder of the week and are open to the public after 4 p.m. each day.
By SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on May 09, 2023