Theology from the Tipi: Nĕstooāāk Part 1/2

Part 1 of 3

Edmonton, October 2015 - Glowing faces around the tipi fire belie the mean temperature of the late October evening. We are out on the land (Treaty 6) west of Edmonton. The sweet grass smudge is lit as the late comers grab a blanket at the entrance and are pointed to their place, circling sun-wise around the fire to the men’s side (west) or the women’s (east). As Harold Rocher (Treaty 6 First Nation) and Nora Yellowknee (Treaty 8) welcome everyone and explain the significance of the smudge, Harold carries the gently smoking smudge around to all desiring to participate. We ask Creator to purify our hearts and minds to think clearly, listen well, speak thoughtfully.

Nora describes in detail what life was like for her and her Cree people, Wabasca-Bigstone First Nation, of Northern Alberta. She speaks of Cree understandings of the universe, the ways Cree people raise their kids, the great respect her people have for Creator and all of creation…ones that walk the earth, fly the skies, swim the seas, or grow from the land. When they witness damage being done to the earth, it’s associated closely to damage done to another person. We are all related, earth, creatures, people. When they take something from the earth (harvest) there is much thought given to that act, since there are always consequences for our actions. They only take what they need. Tobacco is left as a thank-you to the plant and to Creator. Cree people think way down the road, like 7 generations down the road.

What if we Settlers started to follow that train of thought? How might our daily walk look differently than it does today? We sat around the fire, most with blankets wrapped tightly to keep that cool October air at bay, for nearly 2 hours, enthralled and challenged by Nora’s story telling, as we considered life around here as it once was….and how things could be with a deeply converted worldview. One of the participants, Rusty Foerger, summed up the Friday evening session: “The setting was perfect, the tipi experience was integral to the learning. The way we were in a circle and the free flow of discussion is part of the message.”

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