‘Never seen anything like this: Native elders share knowledge at UM’

Sitting on a wool blanket inside a tipi on the University of Montana’s campus Oval, Tyson Running Wolf stuffed tobacco into a pipe.

A fire in the center crackled, and the smell of burning sweetgrass filled the air.

Once it was lit, Running Wolf passed the pipe to Leonard Traveller, a Blackfoot knowledge keeper, who came down from Canada for the ceremony. Before sharing a prayer, Traveller spoke of unity.

“Today, we will assist the Western world and the Indian world, or Native American world, or Blackfoot world to come together and move forward,” he told the group. “To decolonize, we have to understand colonization. … I’m proud to say that despite colonization, we never lost our ceremony. This ceremony, it’s pure love. It’s to heal us, to decolonize us.” […]

Pipe ceremonies, which promote prayer and healing, are not often a public affair. But Monday’s ceremony was different. It kicked off a series of events sponsored by UM and funded by a grant from the Mellon Foundation. The university was awarded $1 million to hold space for Indigenous elders, to connect Native students with traditional knowledge keepers and to educate non-Native students and faculty on ceremony and culture. Read more.