Those in attendance at the National Indigenous Peoples Day festivities at the Penticton Shatford Centre may have caught the demonstration to erect a traditional teepee.
Gus Timoyakin, a consulting resource elder with the Penticton Indian Band, pulled bystanders from the crowd to help him assemble two teepees for the event, which also featured a powwow, face painting and more. He frequently travels to schools and different bands in the area to teach the native language sylx̄cn dialect as well as the proper technique for erecting teepees.
Timoyakin explained the owner of the teepee would sleep directly across from its door, while elders would sleep on either side of the doorway so they would have easier access to leave for the washroom at night. He said in tribes where there could be dozens or more tents that look the same, they would tie markers to one of the tripod poles and then decorate the front of the canvas with unique symbols special to each family so that you could easily find the teepee you were looking for.
Interestingly, many natives began using the canvas from buggies back in the days of colonization to repair damages to their buffalo-skin teepees. This practice of using material other than animal hide began commonplace, according to Timoyakin, who explained that the Hudson’s Bay Trading Co. then began to trade the natives sheets in exchange for animal hides.
Timoyakin said it is not that common for natives today to own teepees, but he still ensures that the youth in their culture know how to set them up for occasions like this.
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