Aboriginal pipe ceremony commentary causes controversy

A letter to the editor written by a University of Saskatchewan professor is stirring up controversy with First Nations students.

University of Saskatchewan professor criticizes ceremonies held on campus

A University of Saskatchewan professor's letter to the editor this week is creating some controversy.

The letter, published in the university's On Campus News, was written by Kevin Flynn. It criticizes First Nations pipe ceremonies held on campus.

An assistant professor in the department of English at the University of Saskatchewan, Flynn took issue with instructions that were emailed to him by the university in preparation for a pipe ceremony that was held there earlier this month.

Flynn said he found the protocol for the spiritual ceremony exclusionary.

"Three or maybe four of these seven items were directed towards woman in their 'moon time' - which as I understand it means menstruating - and the various ways in which their participation in this ceremony would be limited," Flynn said. "I discussed this with a colleague of mine and we were both sort of outraged by it simply because it excluded people."

Omeasoo Butt, a graduate student at the U of S, said Flynn is speaking about something he does not understand.

"Aboriginal spirituality is not written down, it is open to interpretation," Butt said. "So we all interpret it in our own way. His interpretation came from a place that people respect. He is at the university. He is an English professor. He has a PhD in literature. So people think he is a super, super smart guy. But he doesn't and he made an uninformed opinion."

Butt said that in First Nations cultures menstruating women are considered very powerful and this is why they do not participate in certain ceremonies.

Flynn maintains that he just wanted to create dialogue with his editorial comment.

"My call instead was for the university to think about how those practices, those events of whatever sort, might be adapted to better reflect the values of the entire campus community and better include everybody," he said.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.