Because non-Indigenous people were encouraged to join the Glen Anaquod Memorial Tipi Raising Competition, Aziz Mian was able to learn about traditional knowledge in a safe and fun environment.
“I’ve learned a lot about their history and it’s really interesting to learn new things about the Indigenous (people) of Canada,” said Mian, a student ambassador at the University of Regina.
“Being able to take part in this was a really culturally significant part for me.”
Anaquod was the cultural and traditional advisor for the University of Regina’s Aboriginal Student Centre, now called the ta-tawâw Student Centre. He wanted to bring different groups of people together to learn about Indigenous culture in a unique way.
Anaquod, from Muscowpetung First Nation, died in 2011, three years after he started the event which now continues in his memory.
The competition took place Sept. 23 and started with prayer and tobacco offerings to Mother Earth by two of Anaquod’s family members.
A demonstration of proper teepee assemblage came next on the University of Regina’s Dr. Lloyd Barber Academic Green. Competitors were encouraged to watch closely as two experts put together a teepee.
Biyu Si Tu, a student advising assistant with the Student Success Centre, said the demonstrators made it look so easy, but the task was quite challenging.
“I’ve been at the university (on) the Treaty 4 land for almost five years,” said Si Tu.
“I’ve never participated in any of the traditional events, so I thought it would be fun to take part and learn more about it.”
Teams of four had 20 minutes to set up and an additional 10 minutes to take down their teepees.
The teams were divided into three categories: high school, university and community. Teams were made up of Indigenous and non-Indigenous members.
Judges use various criteria like the number of materials used, proper protocol, enthusiasm, outfits, attitude and teamwork when judging each teepee. Bonus points were given to teams who set up their teepee in under 20 minutes.
Si Tu learned the importance of respecting each piece of the teepee. Stepping over teepee poles is considered disrespectful because the poles represent family members such as grandparents.
“Typically, when we have something in our way, we just trip over it or step over it,” said Si Tu.
“We think, ‘Oh, let’s get out of the way,’ but turns out that we’re not allowed to and it’s better to respect their tradition.”
Keenan Cummings, the program coordinator for the ta-tawâw Student Centre, was worried about the turnout for the event. It hasn’t happened on-campus in three years because of the pandemic. He was pleasantly surprised when 38 teams registered, two short of capacity.
“My hope is, a sense of happiness,” said Cummings.
“To see everyone smiling, to see the communication between the teams, to hear the laughter.
“(This is) a great way to honour Glen Anaquod, who’s done some amazing things, not just within the U of R but within our communities. Honouring him as he looks down upon us but also have the family here to come and support them and them support us.”
Feature photo – Photo provided by: Aziz Mian. Aziz Mian is seen centre in grey and Nwobodo Ebuka to the right.