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Photo courtesy Colleen De Neve, for the University of Calgary.

Annual Campfire Chats to explore Indigenous languages

By Kristy Koehler, June 19 2019—

The University of Calgary’s annual Campfire Chats will take place on June 21 — National Indigenous Peoples Day. An afternoon of events and activities is planned including a teepee raising, storytelling and traditional drumming and dancing. There is also an evening program featuring a performance by First Nations Princess Astokomii Smith and an interactive, educational discussion with Elders and Indigenous community members.

The events take place at Sweetgrass Lodge at ENMAX Park, in Calgary Stampede Park. The U of C’s Traditional Knowledge Keeper In Residence and Piikani First Nation Elder Reg Crowshoe will be one of the storytellers, and Michael Hart, vice-provost Indigenous engagement, will host the evening program.

Hart says events like these are an important part of ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the university’s Indigenous Strategy.

“Right now, the biggest piece needed, in my eyes, is education,” he says. “There’s a need for greater understanding of what’s behind the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, what’s behind the Indigenous Strategy. In Canada, there’s a lack of understanding, a lack of knowledge, about the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples — that historical relationship and how we got to be where we are now. So, the first part with the Strategy is creating those education opportunities.”

The Campfire Chats will focus on the significance of Indigenous languages, and takes place at the confluence of several important dates — June is National Indigenous Peoples Month, and 2019 was named by the United Nations General Assembly as the International Year of Indigenous Languages. The event will provide, according to Hart, a way to build community and connect with one another.

“It’s a comfortable, thought-provoking, fun and safe way to get involved and make people inquisitive to want to learn more,” says Hart. “To develop a relationship means we’ve got to learn more about one another and so I think these opportunities are one of many ways to do that. This is one of the ways that’s more fun and relaxed — people can go at their own pace.”

Events begin at 2:30 p.m. and are free to attend. Registration is required online.

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