Native Awareness Week

By David Kenney

Inside the Red Lodge lies a Bay blanket, some matches and tobacco. For now the air is fresh and clean. Two hours later, the room will vaguely smell of smoke.

This pipe ceremony is one of many events happening on campus during Native Awareness Week, which runs from Feb. 28-Mar. 3.

Held by the First Nations Student Association, the annual event is an opportunity for students to experience aboriginal culture. This year’s theme is All My Relations: Mother Earth, Father Sky.

FNSA Vice-president Events Christa Big Canoe says the theme as an invitation to all types of people.

"We wanted to make this year’s event inclusive for everyone," said Big Canoe.

The theme also highlights the importance of spirituality.

"The lowest paid people are religious people–anyone who gives us spiritual guidance," said Big Canoe. "Sometimes if you can’t find spiritual guidance you can’t function in life."

Events for the week include the pipe ceremony, story telling, guest speakers, student readings and a round dance.

The week also aims to dispel aboriginal stereotypes.

"By bringing awareness you break down barriers," said Big Canoe. "People tend to think being a elder you have to be old and gray and that’s not true."

In addition, it’s showcasing successful Aboriginals, which opens people’s eyes, says Big Canoe.

"People don’t always associate Native people with those who achieve status," said Big Canoe.

Anthropology student Isabel Romero sees the week as a great opportunity to share culture. Participating in the pipe ceremony, she was impressed by the types of events being held.

"I think it’s good but there should be more information and activities," Romero said.

Guest speakers include U of C student and actor Evan Adams, who starred in the 1998 dramatic comedy Smoke Signals. Thursday is Business and Education Day, featuring guest speakers, discussion panels and a presentation by Sky Reach. Friday is Arts and Culture Day featuring Adams and an Aboriginal student reading followed by a Round Dance.

Attendance to the events are down slightly from last year, according to Big Canoe. She relates the lower numbers to the scaling down of events from last year. Due to financial restrictions, FNSA had to limit what types of events they held.

"The turnout is a little less than last year but in another way we are getting a lot of people who are enjoying the events," Big Canoe said. "People are very interested in learning or seeing and experiencing [native culture] and that’s what we want."

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