Tipi of Courage

Date / Period
Calgary, Alta.
Object Type
Canadian Red Cross / Calgary’s Coalition on HIV/AIDS
Supporting Indigenous Communities

The Tipi of Courage project initially started in 2003 as a mobilization effort throughout Southern Alberta to increase education about HIV/AIDS in Indigenous communities.

At the time, Elders were questioning why the number of HIV cases in their communities was so high, but without fully understanding the statistical, clinical or medical facts it was difficult to find answers. “From this discussion, the Tipi project identified the impact of how historical influences such as post-contact, residential schools and the inter-generational trauma that resulted, have influenced Indigenous communities today,” explains Doreen Williams, Canadian Red Cross Associate of Education.

The Tipi of Courage has undergone several significant changes since its conception in 2003, shifting focus from HIV/AIDS to Injury & Prevention. It remains a mobilization project but it now also focuses on volunteering, empowering participants with increased knowledge of indigenous history, influences of residential school, introduction to indigenous culture by local elders, recognizing unhealthy behaviours and replacing them with healthy behaviours by adhering to a ‘warrior code of ethics.’

“We wanted to give [youth] the opportunity to look at the history and social practices and how they can use those,” Williams says. “The Tipi of Courage is a great opportunity for them to learn and connect it with that warrior code of ethics.”

Becoming a ‘warrior’ is symbolically represented by the identity of the T-shirt. It symbolizes that individuals are leaders in the community and they act as role models. The program also gives out ‘strength bands’ – wristbands that remind members that they have to practise their warrior code of ethics and act as a symbol of their dedication and hard work.

"The hunter would first listen for the animals, see the animals, make the kill, and then share with the community the adventures of the hunt."

The Tipi itself was built by a team of community members and elders and was transferred to the Red Cross during an important traditional ceremony. It is mobile and taken to various events, powwows, dances and conferences.

Composed of a series of modules, the Tipi of Courage project can be tailored to bring traditional cultural teachings from local Elders to urban Indigenous communities that are otherwise without such teachings internally or who wish to enrich their own capacity.

The model for traditional teaching comes from hunting. The hunter would first listen for the animals, see the animals, make the kill, and then share with the community the adventures of the hunt. In the area of education, the children would listen to the elders and their parents, observe the world as taught to them, copy or mimic the actions of their grown-ups, and when they reached the level of an elder, they will lecture about their life’s experiences to their grandchildren.

This cycle of learning and teaching continues to this day amongst the Indigenous people of Calgary through the Tipi of Courage.

Note: As of December 31, 2016, the Canadian Red Cross Tipi of Courage no longer offers Tipi of Courage Youth Warrior Leadership and Warrier Outreach to the community of Calgary and area. 

Tipi of Courage

Tipi of Courage T-shirt
Tipi of Courage T-shirt
Tipi of Courage bracelet
Tipi of Courage bracelet
Tipi of Courage
Tipi of Courage
Tipi of Courage participants

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