Land acknowledgment to be part of Flames’ 1st Indigenous Celebration Game

Quentin Pipestem, a three-time world champion hoop dancer from Tsuut’ina Nation, is slated to perform this weekend inside a packed Saddledome.

His dancing will be part of the Calgary Flames’ first Indigenous Celebration Game, which is set for Saturday night when the Flames take on the Minnesota Wild. Organizers are planning to make the Indigenous Celebration Game an annual event. 

“I’m nervous, because of course you don’t want to make a mistake or have something happen, but I’m more excited,” said Pipestem, who will perform with other dancers and drummers during a game intermission. “I’m a performer all my life, and these are the things I strive for.” 

One of the most anticipated elements of the Indigenous Celebration Game will be a land acknowledgement. 

The Flames are the last Canadian team in the NHL to include one before games.

Hoop dancer Quentin Pipestem practises for his performance Saturday during an intermission at the Indigenous Celebration Game. Other intermission performers will include children from the Alberta Treaty Minor Hockey Association, chicken dancers and drummers. (Terri Trembath/CBC)

Dr. Tyler White, the CEO of Siksika Health Services, was one of the consultants for the event, which involved months of talks between representatives from the Flames and the nations of Treaty 7. 

“When I think about our work, it’s really a collaboration between Treaty 7 and the Calgary Flames,” he said. “We’ve created this safe space, we’ve created this platform to really showcase the beauty of our culture.”

Saturday’s event has the potential to set a standard for showcasing Indigenous culture at professional sports games, White said. 

“I think it’s going to create a model … that will provide guidance and direction for other NHL clubs and teams in general,” he said. 

According to organizers, the event will start with a pre-game show featuring ceremonies involving chiefs, elders and princesses from the Treaty 7 nations. One of these pre-game ceremonies will be the land acknowledgement. 

As they warm up on the ice, Flames players will wear a custom jersey with an Indigenized version of the fire-breathing Blasty horse. The design adds eagle feathers and markings on the horse’s face, which symbolize keen vision and great accomplishments. 

While the warm-up jerseys won’t be for sale, they will be auctioned off with the proceeds going toward Indigenous youth programming. The auction is slated to start at 7 p.m. Saturday. 

In a statement, Peter Hanlon, the Flames’ vice-president of communication, thanked the chiefs and delegates from the nations of Treaty 7 for their help in bringing the event to fruition. 

“We have been honoured to come together with you and continue the journey of reconciliation,” Hanlon said. “While the celebration game will be a special night, it is just one component of our commitment to continue to learn from and partner with our Indigenous neighbours.”

For Pipestem, who is no stranger to performing at large events, the celebration will be especially meaningful. 

“I’m happy to be able to show just a small aspect of our culture, because there is so much more than just my dance,” he said. “I hope people will begin to have an interest in learning more.” 

The Indigenous Celebration Game will be televised live on Hockey Night in Canada.

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