Though the tipi raising to celebrate National Aboriginal Day on June 21 was cancelled, due to stormy skies, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate First Nations culture on and around the university campus.
“In 1971 we had one [First Nations] graduate,” said Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes, administrative coordinator for the Native Centre on campus and a University of Calgary graduate herself. “This year we had 80. That’s an 8,000 per cent increase.”
The tipi raising was cancelled because of the danger posed by the slippery poles in the rain, but it will take place in September.
The ceremony will be put on by the Native Centre for the 300 self-confirmed First Nations students on campus, as well as anyone else interested in learning about First Nations culture.
“The Native Centre is not just for First Nations students,” said Chagnon-Greyeyes. “It’s for everyone in the community.”
The Native Centre serves as a meeting place for First Nations students and provides them with financial, academic and cultural services. Throughout the school year, they hold pot lucks once a month, and bring in an elder to meet with the students.
The centre–located on the third floor of the MacEwan Student Centre–contains a prayer room, offices for its staff, several meeting rooms and computers with printers.
“Students bring in their own paper,” said Chagnon-Greyeyes. “This can be hard, since some of our students are homeless. Paper is one of our major costs, and we’re always looking for donations of paper.”
National Aboriginal Day is officially in its 10th year, and with the progress being made towards reducing the barriers of bringing First Nations students into post secondary education there are plenty of reasons to celebrate, even if there are no tipis just yet.