April 17, 2024

Elders validate Journey update report and unveil new Winter Count symbol and join UCalgary on a parallel path

Indigenous community members and university representatives work together to become relatives
From left to right: Florence Kelly, John Chief Moon, Diane Meguinis, Monica Chief Moon, Anne Kokak, Reg Crowshoe, Rose Crowshoe and Cora Voyageur.
Elders at the Tea Dance Ceremony. Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Indigenous Elders and University of Calgary representatives have come together to witness the ceremonial validation of the 2023 Journey Update: Becoming Relatives and to add a new corresponding cultural symbol to the university’s Winter Count buffalo robe. 

The new symbol is one of many in a series of cultural symbols that tell the pictographic story of the university’s journey toward Truth and Reconciliation since the inception of UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii taa’poh’to’p, in 2017.  The hand-painted image was unveiled March 21 during the university’s yearly Tea Dance Ceremony hosted by the Office of Indigenous Engagement.

  • Photo above: Standing, from left, John Chief Moon, Monica Chief Moon, Reg Crowshoe. Seated, from left, Florence Kelly, Diane Meguinis, Anne Kokak, Rose Crowshoe, Cora Voyageur.

Shared near the spring equinox, a time of growth and renewal for many Indigenous cultures, this year’s cultural symbol was developed and painted by Elder Reg Crowshoe, Hon. LLD’01, and approved by Elders who are part of the university’s circle of advisers. Crowshoe is a prominent Piikani ceremonialist, community leader, and an appointed cultural adviser with the Office of Indigenous Engagement. Alongside his wife, Rose Crowshoe, Crowshoe shares cultural guidance and presides over the ceremonial aspects of many cultural events hosted by the University of Calgary as part of our journey toward reconciliation. 

While the Journey Update event announced the release of the university’s yearly written community report, the ceremonial validation of that report and the cultural symbols painted on the Winter Count serve a similar purpose by reimagining the key messages of the report into a symbol showcasing UCalgary’s progress within its Indigenous Strategy.

“When (the report) was given to me to put into symbols, I went back on our creation stories to find symbols that represent the title, Becoming Relatives,” says Crowshoe. This year’s pictograph showcases Creator reaching out while surrounded by a group of people holding hands, each representing one of the Nations that are part of the Indigenous Strategy. 

“Creator made us from magic dust and that dust is what everything is made from,” says Crowshoe. “But, when the Elders speak of ‘magic dust,’ what they’re talking about is biomatter; that’s how we were created. We’re all created from the same source, so we we’re all relatives.”

Creator reaching out while surrounded by a group of people holding hands, each representing one of the Nations that are part of the Indigenous Strategy.

The 2024 cultural symbol added to UCalgary's Winter Count buffalo robe.

As discussed in the Winter Count and the written community report, the topic of becoming relatives has been an important theme in strengthening the goals of the Indigenous Strategy. While the concept may be new to some, Crowshoe says becoming a good relative involves respecting all parts of life and all beings within creation, for “they are all our relatives. 

“In our traditional rules, (the) river is my relative,” he says. “That river will have grandchildren into seven generations, just as I will also have grandchildren into seven generations; they’ve got to both survive.”

In the spirit of fostering meaningful relationships with the Indigenous community, the Office of Indigenous Engagement is working to emphasizes the importance of parallel paths by having both a written and oral/visual account of the strategy’s progress. 

“The written report to the community, released annually in late fall, is an important part of the implementation of the Indigenous Strategy, capturing a progressive journey from one year to the next. The Winter Count, renewed each spring, is viewed in parallel to our written report, capturing the story of ii’ taa’poh’to’p through a series cultural symbol — an Indigenous way of sharing our journey together,” says Dr. Shawna Cunningham, EdD, acting vice-provost of Indigenous engagement and director of the Indigenous Strategy. 

Crowshoe explains: “Part of becoming a good relative is being able to respect and recognize that the oral system is just as valuable. We need to understand each other and walk in parallel paths if we want to achieve reconciliation.”

To learn more about UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy and read all annual reports, visit the Office of Indigenous Engagement’s Our Journey web page.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, The University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, “in a good way,” UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.

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