Our staff and volunteers were recently guided in raising a very special tipi on the Storied Peoples Trail at FortWhyte Alive. The tipi canvas was painted by local artist Annie Beach, who was onsite to participate with us. Annie is Cree/Saulteaux/Ukrainian, with relations from Peguis First Nation.
The entrance represents the doorway of the spirit world to the physical world, facing east to the rising sun of a new day. The bison calf on the west side teaches us the cycles within nature, that with every ending comes a new beginning. The prairie crocus, or paskwāw-mostos-otisiy — direct translation “bison belly button” in Cree — are the first flowers to bloom in spring, making them a significant sign from the Creator of new life.
“As someone who grew up disconnected from my family’s teachings and histories, it’s important to honour the truths that must come before reconciliation, that we must endure the cold before the warmth of spring. Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples need to learn these histories before we can nurture the beauty that follows.”
It’s important to honour the truths that must come before reconciliation, that we must endure the cold before the warmth of spring.
We were able to work with a tipi knowledge keeper named Christopher Harper, Loud Thunder Cloud Eagle still in the Sky, from Peguis, MB, who guided the tipi ceremony, which set the tipi in place as a space for respect and sharing.
Tipi is the word for this shelter in Dakota language. In Cree, the tipi is known as mīkiwāhp.
While Christopher directed the tipi raising, he also gave all the opportunity to participate in putting up the poles, and then raising the canvas and pinning it into place.
- The tipi was built first with three poles lashed together and raised with a long rope attached. As poles were added, the rope was wrapped around by walking in a circle around the tipi.
- The final pole raised had the tipi canvas tied to it. The tipi is unfurled and pinned at the front, then pegged down.
- The smoke flap poles are added last, while they are open, they have an appearance of open arms to welcome visitors inside.
- A count of 13 poles inside the tipi would be Cree tradition. Each pole represents a teaching to follow, as well as 2 smoke flap poles on the outside. Dakota tipi traditionally had 15 poles and two smoke flaps. This new tipi has 14 poles – the additional pole represents the people or community. The number of poles in a tipi depends on the culture and teachings of the knowledge keeper.
All are welcome to enter the tipi, and while inside, all should feel a sense of safety from the surrounding poles and canvas, and feel support from the group they are a part of.
Annie Beach is a visual artist born and based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Treaty One Territory. Beach is Cree/Saulteaux/Ukrainian, with relations from Peguis First Nation. Annie is a recent graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree (Honours) from the University of Manitoba’s School of Art.