Protocol Is Important

  • The tipis at Delton School. Sharon Pasula

The annual Miyokisikaw (Cree for “It’s a good day”), was hosted at Delton School May 19, 2017. This year, four elementary schools participated. Students were bused in from Oliver, Norwood, and John A. McDougall Schools. 1200 students, 600 in the morning and 600 in the afternoon, had the opportunity to experience 20 stations that included; traditional games, hoop dancing, tipi teachings, storytelling, Métis dancing, and drumming. Each station took about 20 minutes and the students went from one to the next for half the day

“We always have dignitaries at pow wows,” said the emcee. Then, he proceeded to introduce one. “Ladies and gentlemen, Kerry Diotte.” (This is how the name was spelled on his agenda). Looking around he said, “Where is she?” Someone quickly said, “He; it’s a he.” The emcee was more than just a little embarrassed. As Mr. Diotte came from behind, the emcee continued to offer an apology and he was really quite upset about his mistake. Mr. Diotte took the mic and went right into his speech. He didn’t acknowledge the error. He might have been embarrassed himself. It was hard to tell. Many people would have mentioned it and tried to make light of it saying something like, “You are not the first one to make that mistake and probably won’t be the last,” trying to generate a chuckle from the young crowd.

Mr. Diotte said the usual things politicians do. Indigenous dancers had danced earlier and Mr. Diotte mentioned their colourful “costumes.” He looked around the field and mentioned teachings that would take place in the tents. He finished and then the next dignitary was introduced.

For the uninformed, here is the contextualization. Indigenous people refer to their ceremonial and pow wow clothing as regalia or outfits. It is considered offensive to refer to it as costumes.

Secondly, tipis are not tents. There were six tipis in the school field and not one single tent.

So, if protocol had been observed by both parties, this embarrassing scenario could have been avoided. Mr. Diotte would have been introduced as “Mr. Kerry Diotte, Member of Parliament for Edmonton Griesbach” and Mr. Diotte would have commented on the regalia being colourful and the great learning opportunities taking place in the tipis.

As a result, some are wondering if M.P.s are not required to take “Indigenous awareness” training (if such a thing exists in federal politics) or if Indigenous people really should learn more about their colonizers.

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