District tipi created by students from Victoria Park High School

By Garrett Simmons

Communications Officer

Lethbridge School District No. 51

Lethbridge School District No. 51 now has its own tipi.

Students at Victoria Park High School, along with cultural advisor Monte Wolf Child, spent well over a month on the development of the tipi. The tipi is emblazoned with student art, along with the District’s FNMI logo.

Students painted designs on the canvas structure, which will now be available for use at events such as the District powwow and a variety of other FNMI-related activities.

“It can also be used as a teaching tool,” said Andrea Fox, the District’s principal of FNMI Education. “We had been contracting out a tipi, and now we can bring our own tipi to schools.”

Fox added the new tipi represents an opportunity to teach students and staff the entire cultural piece surrounding the traditional structure, along with some interesting facts.

“The Blackfoot people were some of the first to have tipis on the plains,” said Fox. “Our tribe was actually one of the few that painted tipis.”

Fox added the entire process included much, much more than simply decorating the tipi.

“Really, it was about more than just painting a tipi. It’s cultural, community and teaching values like respect.”

Kendall Good Rider, the FNMI liaison at Victoria Park, added the tipi, which is 18 feet in diametre, was made by her grandmother, Margaret Plain Eagle. Victoria Park will assume responsibility for storing the tipi, along with the necessary poles, pegs and buttons.

She added seven stars are depicted on the top of the tipi, as the design also includes a mountain range, painted in blue, from a pigment-based paint sourced here in southern Alberta.

“Our kids really enjoyed painting it, and they have really enjoyed a lot of the sessions we have had,” said Good Rider. “It was really neat for them because it’s something they wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do otherwise.”

Victoria Park principal, Ian Lowe, added the project has also helped bring students together.

“We had up to 16 students involved, both First Nations and non-First Nations students, so it has been a really neat process.”

Good Rider agreed, and mentioned Blackfoot, Cree and Metis students have all been part of the painting process, and had an opportunity to share a bit about their customs and traditions.

“It’s been good for them to connect with one another. Sitting around here with each other, they have gotten to talk with each other a lot more than they normally would around school.”

Before the painting could take place, a Rights to Paint a Tipi Ceremony took place at the school, as Blackfoot elder Bruce Wolf Child officiated the ceremony.

“It was well received by our students, who demonstrated a great amount of respect and understanding for this special process that they are now part of,” said Fox.

With the painting of the tipi now complete, the District will now host its first Tipi Transfer Ceremony, set for Thursday, June 21, at 10 a.m., on the west lawn in front of The Education Centre.

“Part of Blackfoot cultural protocols call for a tipi transfer to be designated to both a male and female caretaker who the tipi will be transferred to,” said Fox.

Date posted: June 13, 2018

Picture number 1 from the photo album called District tipi created by students from Victoria Park High School
Picture number 2 from the photo album called District tipi created by students from Victoria Park High School
Picture number 3 from the photo album called District tipi created by students from Victoria Park High School
Picture number 4 from the photo album called District tipi created by students from Victoria Park High School