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Language and Culture (13-17)

Poundmaker celebrates opening of new Culture Lodge

June 22, 2023
A look in from Wednesday’s opening of the Poundmaker Culture Lodge, which included music, poetry, storytelling and more. (Martin Martinson/battlefordsNOW Staff)

NationTalk: battlefordsNOW – In celebration of National Indigenous Peoples Day Wednesday, Poundmaker Cree Nation announced the opening of a new Culture Lodge, with an hour of spoken word, poetry, and culture teachings. 

The Culture Lodge will feature a number of community and cultural events over the summer, from Plains Indian Sign Language workshops, to performance festivals and other artistic endeavors.  Band member and curator of the Chief Poundmaker Museum, Floyd Favel, said the goal of the Culture Lodge is to preserve and continue to grow and learn about the Indigenous way of life. “We’re not simply trying to present entertainment or interesting acts, [events here] must fit into our conception and our theory to further Indigenous performance, and further Indigenous art in a local context that’s global at the same time,” he said.

The making of the lodge has been a project long in the making for Favel, who first conceived of the idea a few decades ago, setting the wheels in motion first on an intellectual level, then tangibly with the building strategy coming into form about 2021. 

“I examined dozens of Indigenous architecture across North America, South America and even globally, looking for the ideal performance space,” Favel said of the early design process. “I decided on this two years ago to go for it, and so we did.

“It’s been a long process because the canvas is very hard to work with and it’s an artistic process building this so there’s no map. Everything was adjusted inch by inch, so it’s been a long artistic process.”

From the canvas itself to the number of support poles made from the sacred poplar tree, the lodge’s very makeup is filled with cultural symbolism and philosophical and spiritual meaning.

The cross on the roof, Favel said, represents the morning star, while the four main support poles stand for the four pillars of the universe. The 12 tall poles securing the structure signify the building blocks and foundings of the universe, while there are 365 of the smaller, more abundant ones supporting the structure that represent each day of the calendar year. 

Opening day performances

Among the performances Wednesday were those by Aerial Sunday-Cardinal, and Janelle Pewapsconias.

Sunday-Cardinal, who is from Whitefish Lake First Nation in northern Alberta, meticulously poured out and shaped seven circles of soil, then stood within it to sing Grandmother’s Song. “Today was about the solstice,” she said after the performance. “The circles there represent the way we all sit in life: The centre circle is the children, outside of that is the elders, next is the women, after that is the men, and lastly is our grandmothers and grandfathers’ spirits.” 

“When I think about this circle, it’s encompassing a lot of our stories and our teachings. Just as we have seven stages there’s those seven circles there.” Aerial Sunday-Cardinal draws out the circles son the lodge ground. (Martin Martinson/battlefordsNOW Staff)

Sunday-Cardinal said she was happy to be able to take part in the day. “I’m always so grateful to come to this space,” she said with a smile. “I love being here because I feel like I can be authentic and still connect to who I am as a Nehiyaw Iskwew (Cree woman). I’m always grateful to be here.”

Pewapsconias, who is from nearby Little Pine First Nation, also performed at the event, sharing three pieces of poetry from her anthology, “When the Condor and the Eagle Meet,” she published last year.  “These pieces really speak to identity and celebrating who we are as Indigenous peoples, finding acceptance amongst each other, and celebrating balance and creation,” she said of the works. 

Janelle Pewapsconias recites poems she wrote, at Wednesday’s opening. (Martin Martinson/battlefordsNOW Staff)

“I knew this was one of the first events to happen at this lodge, so I was really honoured to be part of that,” Pewapsconias continued. “I knew this was going to be a different way of performing with a different kind of audience: It’s more than just people, it’s the beings and energies that are here with us today, so it was a really wonderful day.”

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