By Mark Kerr, Senior Communications Officer
Aboriginal Grade 7 and 8 students from across Ontario learned about the significance and importance of the teepee in Cree culture through a hands-on activity at Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre (FDASC) this past week.
The students were on campus to participate in Engineering Week for Aboriginal Youth (EngWAY), a program offered jointly by Aboriginal Access to Engineering and the Enrichment Studies Unit to introduce Aboriginal students to engineering and applied science.
“The cultural activity was an interactive way for students to learn about the 15 traditional Cree cultural values represented by each pole of the teepee,” says Janice Hill, Director, FDASC. “By working with an elder, they could understand the protocol for replacing the canvas as well as the engineering behind the structure.”
Students completed in-class activities to learn about the sacred values that sustain the Cree’s spiritual, emotional, physical and mental well-being. The students, FDASC staff and Aboriginal Access to Engineering summer outreach staff then moved outside to erect the teepee and put on the new canvas. They were led by Elder Bernard Nelson, an Oji-Cree who lives in Kingston.
FDASC regularly conducts ceremonies in the teepee, a symbol of the sacredness of womanhood as it stands with dignity. The original canvas needed to be replaced because it was starting to rip and deteriorate. The new canvas contains a tricolour design and was made possible by support from the Aboriginal Access to Engineering.