People worked together to raise poles in Confederation Park on Sunday, setting up five teepees for the 35th annual Lions Festival of Lights in Calgary.

Organizers say the event is the largest free drive-by Christmas lights showcase in Calgary, comprised of around 500,000 lights at 14 Street and 24 Avenue N.W.

Festival chair Otto Silzer said setting up teepees honours Indigenous people, calling the effort “one of the most important things we could do” for reconciliation.

“We have the teepees as part of our display, but we’ve never actually had the Indigenous people come and show us how to do it, how to put them up properly and to have the teepees blessed, so we thought today would be a good time to do that in this appropriate time,” he said.

Siksika elder Herman Yellow Old Woman blessed the teepees at Sunday’s event, noting the display recognizes Indigenous children who never made it home.

“It’s an honour for me to know that they are honouring the residential school survivors and the children from the unmarked graves,” he said.

“Anything that has to do with our nation, our tribes, our history, to us Native people, there’s a lot of spirituality in there, and we know that there will be some spirit that will be amongst these teepees.”

Silzer said the festival is scheduled to start without fanfare due to COVID-19 on Nov. 27 and runs until Jan. 8.

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