YMCA Camp Riveredge Tipi Story

Written by: Sarena Provost, Indigenous Manager

YMCA Camp Riveredge is situated along the banks of the Elbow River, where the Blackfoot people traditionally used to hold summer ceremonies. YMCA Camp Riveredge has always had tipi’s put up every summer for a culturally safe space for morning smudging, programming, and to be used to shelter groups of campers from rain/snow. Every summer, our tipi’s are blessed by Elder Joe Spotted Bull from the Kainai Nation. In the summer of 2016, Elder Joe felt that if we were going to bless our tipi’s, they should be given a Blackfoot name to honor the traditional territory and space for camp.

The following summer in 2017, Elder Joe advised us that to be culturally appropriate and honour the Blackfoot names of the tipi’s, we need to get Blackfoot style tipi’s. So, in the early part of 2018, Camp Chief Hector YMCA, who oversees Riveredge, embarked on a consultation process with Elder Joe on the purchase of tipi’s, poles, buttons, and piquets.

We contracted Roberta Smith, tipi maker from the Piikani Nation, to make four 18ft tipis for camp. So, in the summer of 2018, YMCA Camp Riveredge welcomed the summer with 4 beautiful Blackfoot tipis that all had names, which are Pitaa (Eagle), Kiiayo (Bear), Ponohka (Elk), and A’pina (Butterfly).

Every summer, we’re thankful and honoured to have Knowledge Keepers Jaron Weasel Bear and Kyle Plain Eagle, along with their helpers from the Piikani Nation, come put up our tipis. Once the tipis are up, they are blessed by Elder Joe.

We give a hand to heart thanks to our Elder, Joe Spotted Bull, Knowledge Keepers, Jaron Weasel Bear and Kyle Plain Eagle and Tipi Maker, Roberta Smith for their continued allyship, cultural guidance, and blessing. They continue to support us to make sure YMCA Camp Riveredge is connected to the land, people, and culture of the Blackfoot Territory and Treaty #7.

This year, we’re thankful and honoured to have Elder Joe Spotted Bull’s granddaughter, Susan Spotted Bull, lead our tipi blessing for a safe and fun summer for our campers and staff. Our relationships with the people and land are a value, responsibility, and commitment we have to the importance of reconciliation.