Blackfoot face-painting ceremony all about protection, success in life

The Chinook Lodge Aboriginal Resource Centre held a Blackfoot Face Painting Ceremony on Jan. 17 which featured Elder Jim Swag, the manager at Piikani Employment Services.

“You always pray for the good,” Swag said in an interview after the event.

“The purpose of the face-painting ceremony is protection.”

Swag conducted the prayer and painted the faces of those who asked for protection.

He drew dots on their faces and drew crosses on their arms with a special burgundy-coloured paint.

“The purpose of face painting ceremony is to help an individual succeed in life and protection,” said Swag.

“If a person is sick, they come and ask an Elder if they can get their face painted and ask for guidance in their life.”

Also known as the Big Wolf, his aboriginal name, Swag is also a ceremonialist in the Piikani nation.

“The Blackfoot Reserve has three areas of the Siksika nation. To the southwest would be the Piikani nation and far south there is the Blood tribe,” he said.

“The Blackfoot people used to travel in groups and they lived along the river bottoms for shelter and food.”

Other ceremonies such as the Beaver Bundle, Medicine Pipe, and Horn Society Bundle employ different types of paint and ceremonial aspects as well.

“Each ceremonial object has its own type of painting that’s required for the ceremony,” said Swag. “The colours of the paint we use are red, yellow, blue, and black.”

Swag has been an Elder for 25 years. He’s been providing any guidance that he can to the young people.

“I never thought in my life that I would be sitting here as an Elder,” he said.

Tapaarjuk Moore, student advisor at the Chinook Lodge Aboriginal Resource Centre, helped plan the event and schedules any other ceremonies that take place at the Chinook Lodge.

“The reason why we incorporate indigenous related culture activities is because it’s a very central and key part of what any indigenous culture in Canada has,” said Moore.

“The significance of the people that originate from this area is key. We provide research to the students because a lot of students are from this area and it’s a key part of their culture,” Moore said.

“We also do it to increase awareness and show that there’s so much diversity in the different cultures throughout Canada.”

Moore is from Nunavut and explained that they don’t have the same ceremonies as those that take place in the Blackfoot territory.

“It just depends more on where you’re from but it’s not so key to where I’m from because we used to practice shamanism but that kind of advocacy was crushed when Christianity came,” said Moore.

“We don’t have that part of our culture anymore but the people of the Blackfoot area they do have a lot of ceremonies still.”

We also do it to increase awareness and show that there’s so much diversity in the different cultures throughout Canada. – Tapaarjuk Moore

Moore said the goal of the Chinook lodge was to provide cultural support through events such as the Blackfoot Face Painting Ceremony.

“Any kind of cultural event or activities is open to the public so that also means SAIT faculty students staff can bring their friends and family t the events as well,” said Moore.

In total, 20 people attended the ceremony where they were handed two cigarettes for prayer and all of them got their face painted. The people in presence also made a blessing for food.

About Namreen Khaliq 4 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Namreen Khaliq is working as a reporter for The Press during the 2016-17 academic year.

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