Cultural programming educates and provides understanding

On Jan. 12, the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues (EFCL) and Bent Arrow Traditional Healing Society hosted Tipi Teachings at Parkdale Cromdale Community League with the goal of bridging gaps in the community. 

The day began with a smudging ceremony (for spiritual cleansing and purification) to help everyone start the day positively. From there, participants learned about the medicine wheel and how it represents the four directions and the four seasons in nature and in life. 

Rayna Gopaul, EFCL’s Indigenous project officer, teaches a class at Parkdale Cromdale Community League. | Stephen Strand

“I have been doing this with different community leagues around Edmonton since October,” says Rayna Gopaul, EFCL’s Indigenous project officer. “We do different types of activities and, essentially, the goal is to bridge gaps in the community and share Indigenous knowledge, reconnect Indigenous community members to their culture, and provide an understanding for non-Indigenous community members to see the value of the culture and celebrate it.”

Gopaul has been on a journey for several years, which led her to these teachings. “It’s just a great joy of mine and passion of mine to share my knowledge with other people, because I know how pivotal and transformative it was for me to learn my own knowledge, my own teachings,” explains Gopaul. 

Participants learned about the importance of the tipi and the medicine wheel, ceremonial practices, and talking sticks. | Stephen Strand

She discovered settings like community leagues are a great opportunity to share that knowledge. “It might mean something to them today, might mean something to them tomorrow, even in a month from now. Essentially, the information that I am sharing could potentially be very life changing and impactful and help people in a very positive way.” 

EFCL came up with this idea when they recognized a need for this kind of programming at community leagues. They partnered with Bent Arrow to create Tipi Teachings using a grant from Canadian Heritage. EFCL looked to Bent Arrow for advice and mentorship and hired Gopaul because of her experience and background in Indigenous studies.  

The class was free and family-oriented. | Stephen Strand

“Through these educational opportunities, people will go home, create new dialogue and discussions, and share that information with others. And then in a broader sense, we are kind of going to be able to alleviate racism because we are going to create an understanding. Whereas we find a lot of racism is rooted in a lack of understanding,” Gopaul says. They will also provide access to cultural programming so people can understand the importance of it in the community and how it contributes to community building.

Tipi Teachings are free to attend and family-oriented. Through them, people learn of the importance of the tipi and the medicine wheel, ceremonial practices, and talking sticks. They also learn about the protocols around talking circles, working with elders, building relationships, and bridging gaps between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in the community by creating a safe space for everyone. 

Parkdale Cromdale Community League hosted Tipi Teachings throughout January. 

A tipi being set up for Tipi Teachings at Parkdale Cromdale Community League. | Steven Townsend

“We were really interested in running the programing from our community league because we are hoping to raise awareness about Indigenous culture in our community. We have a really large Indigenous population because we are here on Treaty 6 land, and because Bent Arrow is located in our community as well,” explains Sarah De Lano, the league’s event organizer. 

“I think just being in community with people, and especially in a space where there is a focus on [cultural] teachings and positivity and all this wealth of knowledge that Indigenous people in our communities can share with us is a key step to understanding and moving forward.”Visit: and–projects/indigenous-project/ for more information.

Featured Image: Rayna Gopaul says these educational opportunities will help people develop a better understanding of Indigenous culture. | Stephen Strand