Boat Trip and Pipe Ceremony in the Rocky Mountains
To officially launch and celebrate the 2023 Cooks with Stones Program (CWS), program partner Pursuit Banff Collection invited the newest group of CWS participants, their family, Elders from the Stoney Nakoda Nation, FESA staff, and members from TC Energy to participate in a boat tour to the original lake location and to partake in a pipe ceremony.
We all met and headed to the Lake Minnewanka docks nestled in the Rocky Mountains to board the Pursuit tour boat. FESA Trainer and Facilitator Wyanne and Elder Barry guided our group of 25 as we glided across the teal, glacial mountain water. Elder Barry shared stories of the Stoney people, what it means that the mountains are the Stoney People's grandfather, and how the now original lake is located about 20 minutes away from the dock -- the area was flooded in 1941, and the overall importance of the pass.
Once we reached the original location of Lake Minnewanka, we stopped the boat and Elder John offered a prayer for the original lake and one for Elder and Pipe holder Darrol Shortneck -- who had been a major contributor to the inception of Cooks with Stones. After the prayer was offered, we sat on the water to just be present, listening and observing the surrounding nature.
We made our way back to the dock to recharge from the trip and enjoy a lunch provided by Pursuit Banff Collection. Afterwards, we set out to find a spot to conduct the pipe ceremony. While we were searching, the group was tasked with looking for rocks that speak to them, so they could have a rock reading after the ceremony.
You've probably noticed there isn't any pictures or video during the ceremony, out of respect for the ceremony, we refrained from taking pictures.
Our group met under the trees with a cliffside to the west. We gathered in a circle, with men on the right, and women on the left. During the ceremony, four pipes were prepared and filled with tobacco. There were three men's pipes, which everyone could use, and one woman's pipe, which only the women could use.
The pipes were passed clockwise, we were told that we could smoke the pipes if we chose to, but if we did not want to, we could honour it by brining it up to our chest and/or head. The ceremony concluded with four songs sung by the four Elders as they played their drums. After the ceremony, those who wished to offer a rock they chose up for reading by the Elders.
And after all that excitement, we headed home! It was a pleasure to meet all the new CWS Participants and their family who joined us for the opening ceremony. Thank you to the Elders who conducted the pipe ceremony, and to Pursuit for hosting this event.
Keep checking back in on the FESA blog as we will be posting updates on the CWS program over the coming weeks as the students have started their work experience with Pursuit!