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Celebration and ceremony as new Frost Tipi opens


A gorgeous sunny day set the tone for a celebration as the Frost Campus Tipi was officially opened on Nov. 22.

About 50 students, staff and community members gathered for the opening, which featured the lighting of the first ceremonial fire in the brand new Tipi.

The opening comes after almost two years of effort on the part of Fleming’s Aboriginal Student Services and the Frost Campus to work toward an agreement with the City of Kawartha Lakes Fire Department around hosting fires in the Tipi. Fire Chief Mark Pankhurst attended the opening and took part in the ceremony.

Elder Gerard Sagassige commended Aboriginal Student Services Coordinator Kylie Fox on her hard work and diligence in seeing the new Tipi opened.

After a select group was invited inside the Tipi for the lighting of the ceremonial fire, Fox presented framed photographs of the Tipi to Dean Linda Skilton, the Frost Student Association and Fire Chief Pankhurst.

Elders Sagassige and Williams then shared protocol around the use of the Tipi.

Elder Sagassige said that the fire is the most important part of the Tipi – it signifies warmth. The Tipi also represents protection, added Elder Williams

“Everything a home provides, that’s the symbol of the Tipi,” she said.

One must always seek traditional permission to use the Tipi, said Elder Sagassige. No alcohol or drugs are allowed inside. Upon entering the Tipi, always go to the left and follow the circular shape of the structure. There is a “balance” to the Tipi, Elder Sagassige said – a male and a female side.

According to Elder Williams, all of the poles supporting the tipi have different meanings. They include: 

  • Obedience
  • Respect
  • Humility
  • Happiness
  • Love
  • Faith
  • Family
  • Cleanliness
  • Thankfulness
  • Sharing
  • Strength
  • Hope

Following the teachings of the Elders, all those in attendance were welcome to stay for lunch and invited to sit in the Tipi.

A gift of a hand drum

A special part of the opening included honouring Patrick Beatty, a Fleming student who passed on to the spirit world in January 2011.

Kylie Fox fought back tears as she spoke of Patrick and his time at Fleming.

Two weeks after his death, Aboriginal Student Services hosted a drum-making workshop and a drum was made in his honour. Fox then asked Freddy Taylor of Curve Lake First Nation to paint the drum. The drum, adorned with an image of an eagle soaring through flames was presented to Patrick’s mother.

Taylor shared how he came to paint the drum. He is a residential school survivor. After suffering through difficult times, he has changed his life and is discovering the teachings of his culture. He “lashes out” on his canvas and paints pictures of hope.

The flames he painted on Patrick’s drum signify life’s hard times. The eagle denotes having the strength to carry on through those tough times.

“The eagle is carrying me to another world – the native culture that I lost,” he said. “The eagle is carrying him (Patrick) to a better, warmer world.” 

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