The Walking Out Ceremony
Performed when infants are old enough to walk, the walking-out ceremony welcomes children into Cree society. Traditionally, it was conducted in the morning from a ceremonial tent whose “doorway” faced east towards the rising sun, a symbol of optimism and hope for the future. This ceremony was almost lost in the early 20th century as a result of missionary influence. It was revived in the last half of the century and has been widely practiced ever since.
For the ceremony, infants are dressed in traditional outfits and given toy versions of tools used by Cree hunters: guns and knifes for boys, scraping instruments for the girls. Once dressed, the children are brought into the ceremonial tent where elders of the community sit in anticipation of their arrival. The elders, then, send the infants - accompanied by a parent or close relative - out of the tent, the children pulling behind them animals that have been hunted and decorated: sometimes beaver, sometimes geese or small game. The children complete a circle around a tree, which has also been decorated. When the boys have completed half the circle, they are assisted in firing their “rifle” into the air. Then they complete the circle, re-enter the tent and give the animals they have been pulling to the elders.
Another type of walking out ceremony is carried out in the winter when the child is old enough to walk out for the first time on snowshoes.
While celebrating the productive capacity of men and women, this wonderful ceremony also highlights the worth of each person in Cree society.