Community comes together to raise tipi after wildfire

Symbol of home resonates with Indigenous community in Valleyview

Story by Diana Rinne

VALLEYVIEW — Resilience was a key theme as the community raised a tipi for National Indigenous Peoples Month in Valleyview on June 2.

“We are resilient,” says Elder Barb Goodswimmer of Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation, which was evacuated and suffered significant loss of homes during the recent wildfires. Barb’s home was one of 39 in the community destroyed by the wildfire, with another 33 homes suffering significant heat and smoke damage.

“We won’t let what happened bring us down,” she shared during the tipi-raising event, “As long as we have land, we have a home.” Rosalyn Goodswimmer, councillor with Sturgeon Lake Cree Nation agreed, noting the tipi-raising felt much more impactful this year in the wake of the wildfire.

“This is a symbol of home, and this is who we are — it really resonates,” she says. “People going by can see this tipi and know that there is a home for us here. It’s a huge step for us in working together better.”

The tipi-raising itself came about as a collaboration led by Valleyview Healthcare Centre site manager Tracy Brown, who also serves as president of Metis Local 1929. She reached out to another member of the Metis community, Clayton Fjeld, for help in setting up the tipi a few years ago.

Fjeld is a planner/scheduler with Pembina Pipeline Corporation in Valleyview. He jumped at the opportunity to get his team involved in giving back to their community. “Pembina is a big supporter of community initiatives to do what we can, so we’ve been doing it every year for three or four years.”

The Pembina team set up the AHS tipi and later in the day set up a smaller tipi at the Metis Association office.

This is the first year Valleyview Healthcare Centre has been able to invite guests to take part in the tipi-raising, which included a stew and bannock lunch, following the elder’s prayer and several speeches.

“We’ve been able to make so many more connections this year as we recognize National Indigenous Peoples Month,” says Brown. “We’re going to keep (the tipi) up for the month of June — and it’s open for everyone to come and step inside and spend some time there.”

Chief Zone Officer Stacy Greening, who was on hand for the event, says AHS leadership can help support culture change by setting direction on cultural diversity and building a better and more inclusive health system, but “actual culture change, as experienced by our patients and their families, comes from the commitment of our local teams and local leaders to this change and events such as this tipi-raising.

“This is a visual reminder that everyone is welcome here.”

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Thank you for joining us to celebrate the 2023 National Indigenous Peoples Month. Visit Alberta Health Services' Indigenous Health Program  to learn more.

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