Get your sunglasses out for a bright year ahead Iiksist Taana’piwa (It is full of promise)

The doorway of a tipi facing east signifies a new day, a new beginning, and where prayers can be met with the rising sun. On May 2, 2022, Espoom Tah and Blackfoot Elder Roy Bear Chief led the Child Studies and Social Work (CSSW) team on a journey to reflect on their personal and collective commitment and action towards reconciliation. 

 Nisto (me), Kisto (you), Kistoonon (us) Poster

I chose to use the tipi pole exercise that I often use with students going into practicum for the unveiling of the poster on May 2, 2022. I use two props to illustrate the teaching: wooden skewers representing the tipi poles and green felt cloth representing the landscape. 

When Indigenous people lived in tipis, the poles were erected to serve as the framework or foundation, to begin the structure of a home ending with the canvas covering the framework. Pegs are used to fasten the canvas together, and stakes to anchor the bottom skirt to the ground. Three poles are tied together to represent Nisto/me, Kisto/you and Kistoonon/us. The three poles are significant because we are all working together as a team and leaning on each other for support as a department. The poles are rooted and connected to the landscape, which is symbolic, Ksah ko’h or the Earth, is represented by the colour brown, yellow represents the Sun (the essence of life), and red represents the ochre that is often used for the face painting or tipi designs. Each attendee was given a skewer (tipi pole) and asked to talk about their pole, and what word they chose to represent their commitment to reconciliation, decolonization or indigenization, and each had a chance to put their tipi pole on the tripod that was already set up on the green felt cloth.  The CSSW community sat in a circle representing the circle of life. We followed Indigenous protocols such as starting to the left of the host and each person being given the opportunity to share without interruption from anyone in the circle. Words of commitment were shared, and everyone in attendance had an opportunity to participate in the tipi pole exercise. Indigenous values such as respect, listening with an open heart, community and reciprocity were encouraged. 

I spoke to the group about the idea of doing a design around the exercise, putting it on a poster and hanging it up in the hallway of the CSSW department as a constant reminder of people’s commitments where it can be seen by visitors, students and others.

This was the process that was undertaken to get to a design — consensus — poster. The poster was unveiled at the CSSW Welcome Back event on August 18, 2022, and hangs proudly in the entryway to the department for all to see. 

— Roy Bear Chief