Indigenous students set up teepee on UWindsor campus

The third-annual "Sleepy in the Tiipii" event took place in the centre of campus Wednesday.

"Sleepy in the Tiipii" event designed to raise awareness of living conditions in Indigenous communities

Destiny Soney is a third year environmental engineering student and president of the Native Student Alliance at the University of Windsor. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

The quad between Chrysler and Dillon Halls at the University of Windsor is one of the most popular areas of campus, with big leafy trees, sculptures and throngs of students walking between classes.

And for the next 24 hours or so, the open space will also feature a large teepee.

In previous years, the teepee was set up in the community garden at the eastern edge of campus. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

The traditional structure is part of an annual event and fundraiser organized by the university's Native Student Alliance called "Sleepy in the Tiipii."

"We get members from our alliance to volunteer to sleep on campus in the teepee, and they collect pledges at the same time," explained Destiny Soney, president of the group. "The purpose of us sleeping in the teepee outside in the cold ... is to help bring awareness of First Nations living conditions across Canada."

Visitors to the teepee will find posters outlining issues faced by Indigenous people.

Some of the posters inside the teepee. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

When asked why the group chose to build a teepee, which were generally not built in this region, Soney said the structure was selected to keep things simple.

"A wigwam or lodge is a lot more difficult to build," she said, noting that the teepee being used is owned by the coordinator of the university's Aboriginal Education Centre.

"This region was known as a travellers' region for people to cross from different nations all over," Soney added. "We welcome the various cultures ... we have Indigenous students at the university who come from a variety of backgrounds."

Fourth-year criminology student Jessica Chenier is the treasurer and past-president of the Native Student Alliance. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

One of the students sleeping overnight in the teepee is Jessica Chenier, who has been involved since the event started two years ago.

"This is part of my culture, it's part of who I am," she said. "I feel that doing things like this helps ... educate other people and diminish these stereotypes and ideas around Indigenous people that might be false — most are false."

Chenier hopes the event will also help strengthen the Native Student Alliance, which started in 2015.

A chilli cook-off tied to the event drew a crowd of students. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Roughly seven students are expected to sleep in the teepee Wednesday night. A fire will not be permitted due to university regulations.

"It's going to be cozy," Soney said. "Hopefully we'll all keep warm telling stories and enjoying the event."


Jonathan Pinto is the host of Up North, CBC Radio One's regional afternoon show for Northern Ontario and is based in Sudbury. He was formerly a reporter/editor and an associate producer at CBC Windsor. Email