Kyle Campiou, Aboriginal Cultural Helper for Covenant Health, is our guide to understanding the tipi's significance.
What does a tipi symbolize?
The bottom of the tipi is the skirt, which is Grandmother/Mother Earth. All the female nurturers come from the Mother Earth so everything inside is protected and given shelter. Like ourselves, the fire represents our life, our warmth and the fire inside. The flaps represent our Grandfather, arms reaching up. The smoke represents our prayers being carried to Creator/God.
The poles represent the full cycle of the year, 13 moons and two poles for night and day. There are 15 in total.
What can a tipi teach us?
When you work in a structure of squares, having a circle can give people a new perspective and connection they don’t get from walking in hallways and going into rooms. A tipi can shift you emotionally. It brings a person outdoors into something that is round, soft and made of canvas. People often find it a place of solace, a place to meditate or pray.
We have put up these special ribbons that have been prayed over by an elder; they are specifically to help people bring their prayers to this sacred spot.
What role does a tipi play in a healthcare setting?
We don’t believe a body just gets sick. We don’t believe a person gets sick in isolation. We believe it is connected to their spirit, their community and ultimately, their environment. So that is why we feel it is important to have healing and welcoming places in their environment. The word tawaw in Cree means, “Come in, you're welcome; there's room." The tipi at the Misericordia is always open; it is even wheelchair accessible.
The tipi is up throughout the summer because that is when Mother Earth gives us the most amount of healing energy.
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