Indigenous group celebrates winter solstice with traditional ceremony in Regina

Dec. 21 officially marked the first day of winter in North America, and was observed in Regina by Indigenous cultures. Thirteen teepees were raised on the grounds of the legislative building Wednesday in honour of the thirteen moons the seasons represent.

Organizers say it is also a time for the males to take care of traditional Indigenous women’s responsibilities like gathering firewood.

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Dozens gathered in the sacred space on Saskatchewan’s legislative grounds to honour the winter solstice –the first and the shortest day of the year. In Indigenous culture, it is considered a time for prayer, reflection and healing over the year past.

The thirteen teepees are a symbol of the relationship between Indigenous women and their grandmother moon along with it’s thirteen phases.

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The traditional ceremony included a prayer, a pipe ceremony and a feast with solstice stories all along.

“It’s all part of a cycle, we respond to how the creator has given an opportunity to live, it’s a complete cycle,” said Rod Belanger, one of the organizers.

He said there are 13 seasons according to their traditional calendar which makes a cycle of life. “It’s broken up into like their spring, summer, winter and fall. But we have a pre-spring then we have spring, and in the fall we have a pre-fall and a fall – we have two more seasons.”

Belanger said they were taught that when the snow falls and covers Mother Earth, it covers all the medicines, which is why they gather before the snowfall. “It is also a time when Mother Earth is sleeping and so we celebrate when spring comes and snow melts off the ground. We see the first buds on a tree  – that’s a sign that Mother Earth is waking up.”

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This was the second year of the ceremony outside the legislature.

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“We’re here as men just to support, we’re not here to try and control anything or make any of the big decisions on how to run the ceremony. We just decided to come and help do some of the labour that used to be done by women in the past but now with the weather and challenges we are here to help.”

“These are things that we need. And we’re hoping to educate people to understand that,” Belanger said the ceremony was indicative of a normal way of life for them before colonization happened.

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“We’re kind of a broken people and we’re mending ourselves back together, a lot of us are involved in a lot of ceremony, or a resurgence of our language, a resurgence of our traditions and our culture and this is this is one aspect of it.”

He added that anyone can participate in the winter solstice ceremonies and hopes that people will learn more about Indigenous traditions through ceremonies.

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