Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
March 28, 2023
Pipe ceremony marks new beginning at Haskayne
March 20 is the first day of spring and symbolizes new beginnings. In that spirit, the new Mathison Hall at the Haskayne School of Business had its own new beginnings marked with a special ceremony and presentation representing Indigenous cultures.
Ceremonial Elders, Haskayne leaders, students and donors were invited for an intimate gathering in the Viewpoint Circle for Dialogue. Elder Reg Crowshoe, Hon. LLD’01, alongside other ceremonial Elders, led the event with a smudge, pipe ceremony, presentation of a symbolic blanket, and a song gifted to the Haskayne School.
The event finalized the “circle of blessings” for the completion of the groundbreaking Mathison Hall project. The dean of the Haskayne School of Business, Jim Dewald, PhD, was presented with a blanket that bundled together a copy of the university’s Indigenous strategy, Haskayne’s annual report, and the four markers which were a part of the ground-blessing ceremony. The blanketed bundle represents the vision of Haskayne moving forward with the Indigenous community toward a better path.
“We are building the foundation of two very different systems and cultures,” said Crowshoe. “This ceremony signifies the bond our two cultures have to continue on the path of truth and reconciliation.”
Crowshoe went on to compare Western traditions, as well as the hall’s Viewpoint Circle for Dialogue meeting space, with Indigenous traditions.
“It is important to teach the parallels between our cultures,” he said. “A hammer or gavel to start a meeting is comparable to the smudge and prayers our people say before gatherings. Policies formed from meetings are equivalent to the stories told by our Elders. The Viewpoint Circle for Dialogue is a room for people to meet and learn, as a teepee is.”
The impact of the late Haskayne professor, Dr. David Lertzman, was also apparent during the ceremony, with both the Elders and Dewald recognizing Lertzman for his efforts in bringing the Indigenous and Haskayne communities together.
Significance of Big Medicine Blanket to Viewpoint Circle for Dialogue
The circle is designed to bring people together to make decisions, learn lessons and gather. Already a popular venue since Mathison Hall opened to accept students last fall, its ties to Indigenous ways of knowing were cemented with the presentation of the Big Medicine Blanket. The circle promotes equity, diversity and inclusion, and this is reflected in the blanket’s four hands that represent diversity. The blanket’s circular design encourages all voices to be heard, reflecting the circle and the idea of becoming whole.
The blanket also signifies a new beginning to wholeness and reconciliation, said Crowshoe. The shades of brown and green represent the natural beauty of Mother Earth that can be seen in the wood used in the Viewpoint Circle for Dialogue room.
The seven buffalo on the blanket represent the seven directions: North, South, East, West, Above, Below and Within. These directions are manifest in the room, which is circular like a compass and floats in space with a definite above and below. The university is within, together in diversity, in hope and in community, beginning our journey together toward the positive.
“We are honoured to have had Elder Reg Crowshoe present the Haskayne School of Business with such an amazing ceremony and gift in this space,” said Dewald. “It is a privilege to incorporate Indigenous culture and knowledge into our community as it enables us to take steps toward reconciliation. We are looking forward to the many new beginnings that are to be held in the circle.”
As a part of its Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the event was a reminder of the commitment and responsibility UCalgary has for truth and reconciliation. It is also a reminder that the university welcomes an inclusive and culturally competent environment that aims to promote Indigenous ways of knowing, teaching, learning and research.
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.