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Tobacco Free Campus

Tobacco Free Campus Policy Signing Event
November 21, 2013
Remarks Explaining Pipe Ceremony
By Julie Cain, UTTC Chemical Health Center Director

      The United Tribes Wellness Circle has been working on this project for quite a few years. Today is a wonderful day because today is the day we are going to become a smoke free campus. But first we have to think about our Native American traditions, our ceremonies, our spirituality, how we came to be. Dr. Gipp talked about this, how our traditions are so important to us; how we can teach our youth. And I am so happy that we have our youth and visitors here today.

      We are going to do a traditional ceremony today. This is usually not done but today is a special day and we are going to honor our ancestors and our Creator. We are going to give thanks for our way of life as Native Americans.

Those who took part in the pipe ceremony posed for a photo after its conclusion, from left, Julie Cain, Russian visitor Andrey Fink, Russell Gillette, Donald Cain, Josh Swagger, and UTTC President David M. Gipp.
United Tribes News photo DENNIS J. NEUMANN

      What does the Tobacco Free policy mean to us?

      It means we are going to teach our young people, our visitors, and our community here what tobacco really means to Native Americans and to keep it sacred in our traditions in our culture.

      Students at our school represent about 78 different tribes throughout the U.S. and Canada. Each tribe has a story of how tobacco came to be. To the youth here and the ones that donít know their tribal story about how tobacco came to be, I challenge you to go and research that. Go back to your elders and relations and ask them, how did tobacco come to be? And you will learn your own stories.

      I come from Browning, Montana. I am Blackfeet. In our creation story the tobacco plant was given to us by the Creator along with the buffalo, to use for our people to survive generation to generation. Sent were the seeds that my people planted as tobacco. There were different songs that came with the teachings. The elders taught the young how to carry on those traditions, and how to respect the tobacco plants and how to plant those seeds. So that we could have the wonderful tobacco to smoke in our pipes; to use in our ceremonies; to offer up prayers to the Creator. And that tobacco is used from generation to generation in a good way.

      We have a very special document that will be signed today by President Gipp, keeping tobacco sacred on our campus. We are going to use it in a good way in our ceremonies and our traditions; in the ways it was meant to be used.

      This will not be easy because all around us people use tobacco differently. We have Mr. Cigarette here (gesturing to the human-sized cigarette costume). Tobacco now has chemicals in it; it isnít pure anymore. It is intended to cause addiction so people will want cigarettes. When cigarettes and smoking were introduced it affected our traditional ceremonies. Some people forgot what it was given to us for. That was sad. Casual smoking has poisoned our lives. It causes cancer and heart disease. But today is a wonderful day because we are going to turn that around on the campus of this tribal college and keep our tobacco sacred.

      So, we are going to start with the pipe ceremony. Josh Swagger and my husband, Donald Cain, are from the Turtle Mountains. Iím going to ask Dr. Gipp to come up and join them, and for this gentleman (gesturing to Russian visitor Andrey Fink) to come up and partake as our visitor.

      When they light the pipe, I would like all of you to stand and pray with them because they will be praying for our campus and for our children to keep our traditions as they were given to us by our ancestors; to keep our tobacco sacred and not to use it in a way that harms us.

      In our traditions we have those who are called pipe carriers. They are designated people who act as helpers for the Creator. They carry on our traditions. They keep that covenant with the Creator that they will help people. So that is what they are doing

      This sacred ceremony today will bless our campus and our endeavors to keep tobacco sacred. And it will help those who are going to struggle by not smoking. We are going to pray for them for strength that they will be able to use tobacco only in a good way in our ceremonies.

      With that we will light the pipe now and have Dr. Gipp come up. Mr. Russell Gillette, our elder, will come up also and help. While they are passing it to each other they are praying. And our Russian visitor will be representing our other guests. So, this ceremony will be international.

(Those in the audience were asked not to make photos or video recordings until the pipe ceremony was concluded)


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