Students, educators and elders wrapped up this spring’s Piikani Days at Brocket’s Education Campus last Friday.
They’d spent much of the past week celebrating Piikanissini, or “who we are as a people,” through song and dance and traditional Blackfoot games.
The Piikani, one of four First Nations within the Blackfoot Confederacy, have criss-crossed what is now southwestern Alberta and northern Montana for millennia before their more recent ancestors signed Treaty 7 in the late 19th century.
They intend to preserve their way of life for millennia to come, as their credo makes unambiguously clear.
“We’ll be known forever by the forever we leave behind,” Billy Yellowhorn reminded the kids as they filed back into Napi Playground Elementary.
They’d met outside to recognize first-grader Kacey Patrick and fifth-grader Tavyen Many Guns, chosen to represent the school on the basis of their Three A’s: academics, attendance and attitude.
Their proficiency in the Blackfoot language, the sinew that binds their culture, was certainly no less important, according to Blackfoot instructor Jo-Ann Yellowhorn.
“It’s important to us that our children maintain our identity, our language and our ways,” Yellowhorn told Shootin’ the Breeze after Friday’s ceremony.
The community of Brocket has celebrated Piikani Days for at least 14 years now, and Yellowhorn says that in that time she’s seen a rising swell of community support and investment from residents and from their Kainaim confederates.
This year marks a shift from Piikani Nation’s past practice of crowning girl students as Piikani princesses.
Instead, young Patrick and Many Guns are cultural ambassadors who will represent their school at public events.
“We wanted to give boys a chance to be role models as well,” Yellowhorn explained.
The elementary school and neighbouring Piikani Nation Secondary are inviting anyone who wants to celebrate Blackfoot culture to join their June 21 powwow at the high school’s gym.
The powwow will feature exhibition and honour dances, a free giveaway, and an Owl and Rabbit dance contest, among other highlights.
Doors open at Piikani Nation Secondary at 5 p.m. sharp.
For more information, please call Yellowhorn at 403-965-3877 or Maria Crow Shoe at 403-632-5248.