A powerful symbol is now visible on the Lakehead University Orillia campus. The new tipi, raised by the University last week, serves as a sign that Lakehead is committed to ensuring it is a safe gathering space for Indigenous learners.
“Raising a tipi on campus is a culturally significant moment for Lakehead Orillia,” said Dr. Dean Jobin-Bevans, Principal, Lakehead Orillia. “It symbolizes the University’s commitment to supporting and enhancing Aboriginal knowledge and culture through education, to help our students, faculty, staff, and community partners further understand and appreciate Aboriginal perspectives and traditions.”
In conjunction with the tipi already in place on the Thunder Bay campus, the tipi on the Orillia campus will serve as a meaningful and social space for students, faculty, and staff.
“Not only will the tipi help promote and share Indigenous culture and knowledge, it will also function as a place where other disciplines can interact with each other and bridge a sense of understanding of concepts that may be missed within certain classes,” said Winston Boudreau, Lakehead Orillia student and clan representative of the Turtle Island Student Circle. “I think it is a step forward to having a strengthened partnership with neighboring communities and promoting a sense of inclusiveness within the campus.”
“The tipi and surrounding gardens are a part of a living, growing, gathering place for learning and sharing of ideas between students, faculty, and staff,” said Allysha Wassegijig, Aboriginal Initiatives Coordinator at Lakehead Orillia. “We want to make sure that Lakehead University is a welcoming place, where Indigenous peoples, history, and way of life are celebrated through education, respect, and diversity.”
Traditional Helper Cliff Sharpe began the event with a smudging ceremony, using the cleansing smoke from sacred medicines, sage and tobacco, to bless the tipi and all those who attended. Following the ceremony, staff, students, and faculty, participated in men’s and women’s teachings with Sharpe and Luanna Harper.
The tipi is the culmination of Turtle Island Student Circle’s goal to create a space embraced and supported by the community both inside and outside of Lakehead.
The tipi will eventually be painted with traditional designs and colours, as directed by local Elders.