The cracking campfire at the second annual Campfire Chats. Photo by: Colleen De Neve.

On blankets, huddled around a roaring and crackling campfire, more than 225 Calgarians gathered on Wednesday, June 21, the summer solstice, at the Rise on St. Patrick’s Island, where the Elbow River and the Bow River become one, for the second annual Campfire Chats.

The evening was a celebration of Indigenous culture on what is now declared National Indigenous Peoples Day and featured  Kainai Elder, Wilton Goodstriker and astrophysicist, Rob Cardinal who shared stories of the universe and the myths of the Blackfoot Skies. Savanna Sparvier the 2017 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess also performed a traditional jingle dance around the campfire in beautiful regalia.

2017 Calgary Stampede Indian Princess, Savanna Sparvier, opens Campfire Chats with a jingle dance. Photo by: Colleen De Neve

“Events on National Indigenous Peoples Day such as this serve to educate, inform and build long-lasting community partnerships,” said Warren Connell, chief executive officer of the Calgary Stampede. “The Calgary Stampede is tremendously honoured to have partnered with the University of Calgary for this important event and to gather Calgarians together to celebrate and share the unique culture of Indigenous people.”

The event was hosted by the University of Calgary in partnership with the Calgary Stampede and was created to celebrate Indigenous culture and traditions, while forming new connections and ways to collaborate with Calgarians and community partners.

Warren Connell, chief executive officer of the Calgary Stampede, Kainai Elder Wilton Goodstriker and Dru Marshall, provost & vice president (academic), University of Calgary.

“As we mark Canada 150, it’s incredibly important that we take time to honour the Indigenous voices in our communities, to learn and respect the traditions, culture and ways of knowing woven into the deep heritage of this country,” said Dru Marshall, provost & vice president (academic), University of Calgary. “In 2017, the Year of Reconciliation, and following the calls for action from the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, these are critical stories to tell, and to be heard,” said Marshall.

Astrophysicist and astronomer Rob Cardinal speaks about the importance of storytelling. Photo by: Colleen De Neve.

Cardinal, whose Indigenous name is Star Chief, pursues knowledge of the skies. He discovered two comets and a near-earth asteroid – moving objects within our own solar system – at the university’s Rothney Astrophysical Observatory.

Kainai Elder Wilton Goodstriker shares stories of the Indigenous connection to the cosmos. Photo by: Colleen De Neve

Goodstriker, known as Yellow Spirit Man in his community, captivated the audience as he recounted the Blackfoot peoples’ connection to the cosmos in ancient stories about the origins of the constellations Pleiades and the Big Dipper, which are represented on the southern and northern flaps of the Blackfoot tipis. The two stories tell of orphaned children who were ill-treated and went to live in the sky as celestial beings, and whose movements through the cosmos serve as a reminder to care for our children and of the natural, clockwise flow of the universe.

The first Campfire Chats was held in 2016 and has since grown in attendance. The Calgary Stampede looks forward to continuing to work with the University of Calgary to bring this exciting annual gathering to the Calgary community.