Children and their parents gathered Tuesday to see a teepee raised under the guidance of elder Donna Wright. Everyone helped. Photos: Will Johnson

Children and their parents gathered Tuesday to see a teepee raised under the guidance of elder Donna Wright. Everyone helped. Photos: Will Johnson

Kootenay Kids raise Nelson teepee

Ceremony on Tuesday led by elder Donna Wright

It takes a lot of people to create a teepee.

For the Kootenay Kids Society, it started with some volunteer fathers trekking out into the Slocan Valley wilderness to harvest the poles. When they returned, the mothers and children scraped off the bark and prepared them for use.

Then, with the help of the Rotary Club, the society purchased the canvas covering from a local First Nations woman — luckily, it came with specific instructions on how to tie the knot around the supporting tripod of poles, and then how to arrange the rest around them.

Next they invited elder Donna Wright to a ceremony in their Silica Street front yard, where they acknowledged that they were operating on unceded Sinixt territory and shared with the kids some of the history behind the teepee, and the meaning of its different elements.

“Today is a really special day for us,” aboriginal early years coordinator Ann-Marie Smith told the Star.

“It shows our inclusiveness of everybody, and the hope of doing this teepee-raising is to introduce ourselves to the community, so people can join in and learn about all the activities we have here.”

Smith’s program is for aboriginal children up to the age of six and their parents, and is intended to connect them with their culture. They also provide home support. It’s only one of the programs offered by Kootenay Kids, but it’s with her young ones in mind that they’re making efforts to celebrate First Nations culture.

During the ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, organizer Liam Fitzpatrick invited the children to participate as they navigated the poles into place, wrapped a rope around the top, and then unfurled the canvas.

Wright led the group in a “heart song” as she drummed. Afterwards the kids were invited inside to eat as a community.

Fitzpatrick told them the teepee sends a specific message to the rest of the community: “We are here.”

 

Kootenay Kids raise Nelson teepee

Kootenay Kids raise Nelson teepee

Kootenay Kids raise Nelson teepee

Kootenay Kids raise Nelson teepee

Kootenay Kids raise Nelson teepee