Sask. First Nation chief says tobacco offering from visiting school's coach a step toward reconciliation

Evan Taypotat says he was stunned when a football coach from a visiting team offered tobacco after a recent game.

Kahkewistahaw Chief Evan Taypotat says that's never happened before, even when First Nations schools visit

Chief Evan Taypotat says for a split second he thought a visiting coach's offering of tobacco was joke. (Evan Taypotat/Facebook)

Kahkewistahaw First Nation Chief Evan Taypotat said Canadians, especially politicians, tend to throw around the word "reconciliation" quite a lot.

But a recent encounter with a coach from a visiting school made a small step toward that larger goal, he said. 

Last week, Chief Kahkewistahaw Community School hosted the Robert Southey School Screaming Eagles for the school's first six-man football home game of the season.

In a Facebook post after the game, Chief Evan Taypotat said he was 'still in awe' of the gesture. 'For me as a chief of a reserve it was a small step I believe in the bigger picture of renconclitation,' he said. (Submitted by Ross Brown)
Taypotat said before the game began, he noticed a coach from the opposing team running toward him from the locker room.

"He had a backpack on his shoulder and when he got close to me he said, 'Are you Chief  Evan Taypotat?' And I said, 'Yes, I am.'"

Taypotat said what happened next stunned him and others on the field: the coach pulled out an offering of tobacco and cloth, thanking him for welcoming their school to the First Nation and Treaty 4 territory.

"We first kind of thought he was joking because no one's ever done that before and then I realized, you know, after about a split second that he wasn't," he told CBC News.

Tobacco is one of four sacred medicines to First Nations people and is traditionally offered when making a request.

In a Facebook post after the game, Taypotat said he was "still in awe" of the gesture.

"I've been teaching at this school on and off for 13, 14 years and we've hosted anywhere from volleyball provincials to basketball tournaments to football games to cultural events where we invited a lot of other schools and never ever has that happened. Not even within Indigenous communities," he told CBC.

"For me as a chief of a reserve it was a small step, I believe, in the bigger picture of reconciliation."

Kahkewistahaw First Nation is approximately 150 kilometres east of Regina.

With files from Rachel Zelniker