Imagine living five days without your cellphone, television, computer or the luxury of sleeping in your own comfy bed. Organizers, volunteers and kids at the Arts-based Tipi Camp are going without all of those comforts to sleep in tipis, and take part in activities introducing cultural art, storytelling, traditional games and theatre.

Indigenous Peoples’ Health Research Centre (IPHRC) is hosted their second annual arts-based health research camp at Takoza tipi camp south side of Katepwa.

Last year’s camp was a great success and organizers were hoping to build on that success.

IPHRC Director, Dr. Jo-Ann Episkenew, says one aspect of that success was networking and relationship building. “A lot of them went in as strangers and they kept in touch through social media,” she says. “An important part of this research project is building healthy communities.”

An unexpected finding for organizers was the pride the kids developing from the physical activities such as theatre games, swimming and hiking. “This is something we want to explore because we’re promoting healthy, active lifestyles. This year we’ll be looking at it more purposely,” says Episkenew.

Another important aspect of the camp is the elders who educate the youth about cultural teachings. Last year’s camp elder was Ron Keewatin who taught the youth and the participants a lot and shared many teachings. Sadly, Ron passed away a few months ago, which was a reminder to everyone about the importance of learning from elders. Camp Coordinator Dustin Brass says everyone will remember elder Keewatin’s teachings. “Ron was always there for the kids with the knowledge he shared,” says Brass.

This year, Brass offered tobacco to elders Clayton Episkenew and Connie Wajuntah when he asked them to attend the camp and speak to the youth. Not only did the youth have the advantage of listening to the elders, they also participated in a sweat lodge ceremony.  

Students learned how to express themselves through a puppet making activity facilitated by puppeteer Tony Gee, who show them how to design and paint their masks to represent themselves.

For Jayden Episkenew, making his mask was favorite activity because he was able to express himself through his creation. “There are mysteries to mask-making and it’s a part of you and I feel good making them,” he says.

Creating lasting memories, establishing relationships and building healthy communities is what the Arts-based Tipi Camp was all about.

“It was fun,” says Pauline, who also attended the camp last year. “I made a lot of friends that I’m still friends with and I really wanted to come back to camp this year.

“I like the speaking that Elder Connie Wajuntah does and also the fact that you can express yourself through different activities,” says Pauline.

The camp is a part of a national research project called Aboriginal Health Research Network (AHRNETS) for Aboriginal Knowledge and Ways of Knowing. It is delivered in partnership with the University of Victoria and is sponsored by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).


For more information about the tipi camp, please contact:

Jeanelle Mandes
IPHRC Research Assistant - KT & Communications
(306) 337-2437