September 25, 2020

By SARA HANAFI

The smell of food and sounds of drumming and chanting filled the air during a traditional Aboriginal ceremony that was held at the college on Sept. 21.
Conestoga’s Aboriginal Services held the “Welcome Back” celebration to raise a teepee and kick off the new school year. Students, faculty and members of the Aboriginal community attended and were encouraged to take part in the traditional festivities. Guests were treated to home-cooked food, such as corn soup and fry bread, as well as beef sliders.
Jan Sherman, an elder from the community, was a special guest at the ceremony. Having been a former early childhood education teacher at Conestoga, Sherman had attended previous traditional powwows, but the teepee-raising ceremony was her first at the school.
But Tina Allardyce, a student in the criminal justice program, is no stranger to traditional celebrations.
“This is my fourth teepee-raising ceremony,” she said, adding that the actual raising took much longer than at previous events.
The ceremony began at 10 a.m. and guests, with the help of Aboriginal Services manager Myeengun Henry, began to construct the teepee.
Almost everyone in attendance lent a hand by putting up the poles and holding them in place until the rope was tied and the poles were secured.
The first attempt to raise the teepee was halted after nearly two hours due to an uneven surface; the tarp that wraps around the outside of the poles didn’t reach all the way around.
After a much-needed break for food, the second attempt on flat ground was much more successful and quicker. However, just before the stakes were put in the ground to stabilize the teepee, it toppled over.
“This has never happened to me before,” Sherman said.
Spirits were not broken, however, and it was decided that everyone would try again another day, as the celebration had passed the scheduled ending time of 2 p.m.
Roxane Shawana, the liaison officer for Aboriginal Services, said it’s great having a teepee at the college. “Students come out here with the elders for study groups and drum circles,” she said.
Located beside the pond at the rear of the school, Shawana said, “It’s in a great spot because you can see it from the highway. We get a lot of comments.”
Once up, the teepee will remain standing until mid-November when it will be put away for the winter months.