Elders Teachings: Reflections from Robert

Robert Stewart participated in an Elder’s Teachings session held on August 20th at the Greater Forest Lawn Indigenous Harvest Festival. This blog post is a reflection on his experience.

It was truly a great experience to take part in the Elder’s Teachings session on such a lovely summer day when we could share and enjoy a family-oriented barbecue together. The food and music were very enjoyable with friendly, animated and happy hosts.

I was impressed by the big, beautiful tipi that was about 6 or 7 metres high and as least 10 metres in diameter at its base. Inside the tipi, I found it was noticeably cooler than the outside as it had natural ventilation because of the gap between the bottom of its wall and the opening at its peak. There in the big tipi, people of all ages gathered to hear stories about the way life was and is for the Piikani Nation.

I was especially fascinated with the Elders’ teachings and talks about time-honoured traditions such as name-giving. Their stories were thought provoking and they generated all sorts of questions in my mind but I couldn’t ask all of them because of a lack of time. I wanted to understand the importance of herbs and vegetables, such as sweetgrass and Labrador tea, for food and medicinal purposes. As well, I wanted to learn more about their tales of dealings with other nearby tribes and the Europeans because I found what they did share to be completely spell-binding and informative. Why did the Piikani raid the Crow people for horses? What were the two nations’ relationships like otherwise?

Also, it was inspiring to listen to the tales of relatives’ journeys through the Northwest as they were looking for work and a new lease on life. It really showed the grittiness of life for those who ‘rode the rails’.

I realized I was only scratching the surface of what I could learn and understand as I listened to the Elders. Their stories and teachings are wonderful and always bring the teller and the hearer closer together.

– Robert Stewart

Robert is an active community volunteer in the Greater Forest Lawn community.

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