Tipi Teachings program offers First Nations cultural lessons to Edmonton communities

The creators of a new program want elements of some First Nations culture to be better understood by Edmonton community leagues and their members. 

The Tipi Teachings program, launched this month by the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL), brings elders and program leads to different neighbourhoods in the city.

This month they have spoken about the significance of some First Nations protocol and practices in the spirit of truth and reconciliation.  

“A lot of people are becoming introduced to First Nations culture and it’s becoming more prevalent in our society.  People have a lot of questions around proper protocol, the significance of smudging, drumming and more,” Rayna Gopaul, EFCL Indigenous project officer, told CBC’s RadioActive on Tuesday.

“Everything that First Nations people did was very symbolic and very spiritual, so we’re learning to transfer some of that knowledge in a user-friendly way to communities and allowing them to see the significance of that as well.”

Tipi Teachings is a new pilot for community leagues to introduce First Nations culture in their neighbourhood. 7:03

Beacon Heights Community League, in north Edmonton, is the first to host the Tipi Teachings program. 

Since the program launched on Oct. 6, Beacon Heights community league members have learned about the importance of teepees, smudging and talking sticks, a communication tool used by some First Nations to show respect to a speaker at gatherings.

“There is a lot to learn. It’s great our community can come together and recognize the importance of First Nations culture and teachings and be able to carry that with us as a community,” Amanda Harriman-Gojtan, Beacon Heights Community League vice-president, told RadioActive.

The program is funded by a grant from Canadian Heritage, which is aimed at eliminating racism in communities, said Gopaul.

“We decided this would be a good idea to incorporate First Nations culture so that we can saturate people within it and allow them to become comfortable with it,” she said.

This teepee was raised during one of Beacon Heights Community League’s Tipi Teachings sessions. (Submitted by Amanda Harriman-Gojtan)

Harriman-Gojtan said both youth and adults have attended the three events held in Beacon Heights. 

“I know community members that have come have enjoyed it and have found that they have learned a lot. There are talks about continuing with other workshops beyond this,” Harriman-Gojtan said.

The final session in Beacon Heights, happening Sunday, will feature drumming, said Gopaul. 

“We wanted to do an event where we can learn drum songs. I’m Anishinaabe. Women carry drums in my Nation, so I wanted to share drum songs with community league members who wanted to learn about drumming,” she said.  

Ten community leagues in the city have registered for the program. 

Sherbrooke Community League will host the next round of the program in November.

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