More than 70 people gathered around a tipi that was raised in the Oak Grove on April 30. The event celebrated the new structure with live flute music and a blessing.
In January, Adjunct Professor of 3D Design Totem Shriver’s Introduction to Studio Art class received an unpainted tipi from McMinnville resident Kathleen Wallace. Wallace, a member of the Lakota Sioux Tribe, requested that the class decorate the tipi.
After the painting was finished, Shriver said he planned to raise the completed structure in the Oak Grove.
“I wanted it on the front lawn of the college — in the Oak Grove, sitting near Pioneer Hall and on the commencement green,” he said. “It deserves to be put in a significant place where people will notice it and ask questions about it.”
Shriver and several friends from the McMinnville community raised the tipi for the first time for a celebratory ceremony in the Oak Grove.
“Now that it’s standing, it has a new purpose, so it was important to have it dedicated,” Shriver said. “It’s a powerful image that shows clear ties to history.”
Jan Michael Looking Wolf, an award-winning flutist and Grand Rond Native, led the ceremony with flute music and a message about the equal value of humankind.
“It was such an encompassing message that connected with people,” Shriver said. “He talked about how it doesn’t matter if you are the president or a hobo —everyone has valid things to say about life.”
Shriver said that he decided to spend seven nights in the tipi and invited all interested students and faculty to join him. He stayed in the tipi from April 30 to May 7.
“The more I think about it, I think of this as a happening,” Shriver said. “I am there and never know what is going to happen until people show up and make it happen. Of course, I am part of the mix for the happening, and that is great fun. I am getting to meet all of these different groups of people from night to night.”
Sophomore Brierre Jeffers said she received an e-mail specifically inviting her to the celebration because she is one of 28 registered Native American students on campus.
Jeffers attended the ceremony and spent a night in the tipi with Shriver and 10 other students.
“Before now, I haven’t really delved into my Native American background,” Jeffers said. “This experience has really opened my eyes to the culture and made me realize that it’s something that’s still alive today. It’s something I can really identify with.”
The tipi was returned to Wallace on May 7.
Culture reporter Joanna Perterson can be reached at email@example.com