March 28, 2023

Elders create new symbol for Winter Count buffalo robe, in parallel with UCalgary 2021-22 annual report

Cultural practice part of Spring Tea Dance, a ceremony that brings forth blessings and celebrates Indigenous community members
Michael Hart giving a speech at the Spring Tea Dance ceremony
Michael Hart speaks on the significance of the Tea Dance ceremony Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Each year, our progress toward reconciliation, as guided by the Indigenous Strategy ii’ taa’poh’to’p, is presented in a report format to the community in the fall, then culturally translated and shared close to the spring equinox through a series of pictographic symbols added to a buffalo robe. These cultural symbols are a parallel process for sharing the story of ii taa’poh’to’p.

UCalgary was gifted the Winter Count buffalo robe in 2019. Painted symbols, capturing annual milestones and significant events, have been added to the robe since the development of the strategy in 2016. The buffalo robe Winter Count has since become our traditional canvas for the story of ii taa’poh’to’p.

As part of the annual Spring Tea Dance on March 20, Elders, Traditional Knowledge Keepers and UCalgary representatives gathered to announce the creation of a new symbol to be added to the Winter Count for the 2021-2022 annual report. This year’s pictograph will be designed by Elder Reg Crowshoe, Hon. LLD’01, and validated by the UCalgary ii taa’poh’to’p Circle of Advisers before being added to the robe. Crowshoe provided blessings and spoke about the importance of this cultural practice.

“In Blackfoot tradition, a Winter Count is our equivalent to an annual report,” said Crowshoe. “We walk in parallel paths, so we observe parallel practices that acknowledge our shared goals toward reconciliation.”

The ceremony, hosted by the Office of Indigenous Engagement, also commemorated recently honoured and decorated Elders. Dr. Michael Hart, vice-provost (Indigenous engagement), provided introductory remarks and congratulated Elders Reg and Rose Crowshoe, Jackie Bromley, and Doreen Bergum on recently receiving highly esteemed honours.

In 2022, Reg and Rose Crowshoe were appointed as Members of the Order of Canada, in honour of their commitment to the preservation of Blackfoot culture and contributions to reconciliation. Reg Crowshoe is the former chief of the Piikani nation, has served on the UCalgary senate and is the university’s Traditional Knowledge Keeper.

Bromley joined the Crowshoes in receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal. The medal recognizes their worthy and devoted service in various walks of life and reflects the esteem in which they are held by their associates.

Bergum was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Platinum Jubilee Medal for Citizen Community Builders. The medal is presented to select Albertans who have displayed outstanding service and dedication to family, community and country.

To learn more about how UCalgary’s journey toward transformative reconciliation has progressed in the last year and see institutional performance highlights, download the Indigenous Strategy Journey Update 2022.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, “in a good way,” UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.

Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.