Under a grey afternoon sky, students from Avery School were led through the paces of cultural awareness as they learned about raising a teepee.
Educator Clint Chocan shared that in southern nations they use 13 poles and that each pole carries a teaching. As well teepee protocols and what has been handed down varies from region to region. He said one of the key aspects to raising a teepee is being able to adjust the tightness of the rope on the poles, so that they are tight enough at the top, but still able to allow the poles to turn to the direction you want it to face.
“So this is the tricky part. So when we do this, we have to make sure that its tight enough so that the poles don’t slip. But we have to make sure that it’s not tied enough, that the poles will adjust to the direction that we want them to turn. So this is a little tricky and I’ve had to take it down sometimes because it was too tight.”
Chocan explained each pole carries some teaching or virtue. The first three poles represent mother, father and child or a stable home. They carry the virtues of respect, integrity and humility. The fourth pole was then added which he said is to complete the door to the teepee.
Tammy Blyan has been a counselor at the school for the past three years. She says they do a lot of work with various community partners as they seek to meet their students needs and ensure they have the skills required to be successful. She sees the teepee teachings as being important in that regard.
“Clint Chocan has come to share with us the teachings of the teepee. In doing so he is also raising a teepee with the help our Avery Ambassadors who are our leaders for our school.”
The students got involved with the learning process by holding the ropes and helping to guide the frame skyward under the guidance of Chocan.
Twelfth grader Tyler Lassi says he has a little Cree heritage and enjoyed the outdoor class.
“I’ve learned how to raise a teepee and to get really in touch with this kind of culture, and like how to really process it ourselves and share it with others.”
The teepee raising and teaching exercise lasted about an hour.