November 1, 2013
Native students find community at teepee tailgate gathering
Condensed by Native Village
Montana: Ribbons swayed in the morning breeze. The smell of hotdogs and hamburgers was replaced by aroma of fry-bread. Soon the teepee at the University of Montana was in sight.
American Indian Student Services at the University of Montana recently partnered with Missoula Indian Center, Western Native Voice and the Indian Education Program for a public and community "teepee tailgate."
The event, “Indian Education for All” was geared toward Native Americans in the Missoula Public Schools.
The partnership was formed to reduce the cost of hosting events. It also created a larger gathering for the Native community.
The Missoula Indian Center set up its teepee to educate the public about Natives and the ceremonial uses of tobacco.
Many students came for the food but more for the company.
“I always grew up coming to the tailgate to be around Natives,” said Amy Grant from Kalispell.
Amy was raised off the Blackfeet reservation while her parents were in college. She found Native gatherings helpful in making friends and being around people who understood where she came from.
For students coming off the reservation, the tailgate brought back the familiar feeling of home.
“It provides some place to meet,” said John Sunchild, an exercise science major.
“I think it just kind of symbolizes us at the University,” said Ray Kingfisher of the teepee. Kingfisher, a senior in the Native American Studies program, set up the teepee for the event.
When Lesley Chinnock and her son Dakota wandered over to the teepee, Kingfisher made himself available for questions.
“Go on in,” he told the pair.
“Really? OK. Go ahead,” Lesley said as she led Dakota to the entrance.
After spending a few minutes inside, the pair reemerged.
“I think it stands as a message. A proud and strong feeling,” Dakota said as he and his mom left the teepee behind.
Village © Gina Boltz
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