After two years and a half of planning, the Onion Lake Cree Nation has announced the grand opening of a new teepee monument. The structure was constructed to increase parental engagement in the education system by celebrating identity and belonging with families in the community.
Onion Lake RCMP community program officer Laili Yazdani says the Virtues and Community Belonging Project stemmed from a conversation with Eagleview High School councillors.
“We actually got together to discuss what we can do to increase parental engagement in the school and also bring the community together.”
The grand opening of the 31.5 ft. the metal structure will feature the first set of hanging metal teaspoons donated by the community. The project plans to celebrate family and community virtues annually at the teepee during Family Day.
“The complete construction involves community participation, so it’s really a community development project. So, the project will only be complete when we have enough spoons donated by the community to hang from the teepee and it will create a giant wind chime and its right in the centre of the community.”
The initial idea of the monument was to bring the community together and it has, Yazdani says the support has been plentiful as many parties including businesses, Onion Lake’s Chief and council have helped make the project possible.
“The piece of land that the monument was built on is actually owned by the R.M. of Frenchman Butte. They gave us permission to construct this teepee recognizing what we’re trying to do and there is a longer-term process and goal for this project that will eventually lead to a family park.”
There are three phases for the project that includes the initial spoon hanging, the hanging of a sign above families doorsteps naming the virtue they have committed to and an eventual gathering of the community’s agencies to build a family park.
Yazdani says the concept for the monument came from a television show that her mom frequently watches called Escape of the Country. She found the idea of families contributing something from their home very interesting.
“We really did want to stick with the idea of families donating spoons because it’s something that is accessible, it’s something that’s within people’s homes and it’s more meaningful that people are contributing something from their homes to create a community monument.”
The project team has considered future generations, Yazdani adds the monument has 2,700 chains to hold several spoons from several families over time.
The grand opening celebration of the structure will take place on September 3 at 1 p.m. in front of Kihew Waciston Cree Immersion School in Onion Lake. Residents can bring spoons to the monument during the celebration in order to add to the donations.
The project was funded by the RCMP Family Violence Initiative and Onion Lake Cree Nation.