Celebrating National Indigenous Peoples Day in Lethbridge

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. –

Lethbridge celebrated National Indigenous Peoples Day on Tuesday with everything from Blackfoot songs and prayers, to traditional dancing and tipi raising.

“It’s full of opportunities to learn about other cultures, it does something for us as humans and celebrating and recognizing and building on that foundation of celebrating our diverse differences,” said Charlene Bruised Head-Mountain Horse, the Indigenous relations advisor with the City of Lethbridge.

This year, the community was encouraged to recognize and add Blackfoot language into their vocabulary. Sikoohkotoki is the Blackfoot word for the land Lethbridge is located on.

“If we can imagine, even within the past 10 years, we’ve been limited to recognition and respect shared within the community and our city council and mayor and everybody here representing at the City of Lethbridge making sure that it’s important to recognizing and being the role models and leaders who (help) bring the community together,” Bruised Head-Mountain Horse said.

RECOGNIZING METIS CULTURE IN LETHBRIDGE

While the day is to celebrate Indigenous culture, traditions and way of life, some say more needs to be done to honour Lethbridge’s Metis community.

“So acknowledging our flag, which predates the Canadian flag, is very important for us, that’s a start,” said Adam Browning, president of the Lethbridge and area Metis. “I think the other part is to include us and to celebrate some of our artists.”

One-third of the city’s Indigenous population are Metis, according to Browning, who said continuing work on truth and reconciliation is also integral.

“Reconciliation is not a one part action, it’s a two-way action and we want to work along side the city especially and engage with city council on how we can recognize the Metis community more than we’re doing,” Browning said.

The University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College both recognized the day with a variety of events.

The University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College both recognized the day with a variety of events.

Lethbridge College unveiled the Aiitsi’poyoip Blackfoot Speaking Award for future students.

“It’s an opportunity for our students to preserve their Blackfoot speaking language abilities and give them opportunities to learn more, not only about the Blackfoot language, but (also) the Blackfoot culture,” said Lowell Yellowhorn, the Indigenous Services manager at Lethbridge College.

“Part of the components of this award is students will be tasked with seeking mentorship opportunities and explaining how they engaged in the community as to how they learned the language,” Yellowhorn said.

Each year, the $1,000 award will be given to five Indigenous students of Blackfoot descent who have participated in the preservation of Blackfoot language and culture.

Recipients will be selected based on video submissions, which will showcase the students and their Blackfoot speaking abilities. Interim President and CEO Samantha Lenci said the awards will be funded directly by the college.

“As part of that truth and reconciliation commitment that were taking, the funds needed to come from us and not from others. It needed to come from a way that we can make sure it lives on and on,” Lenci said. “This is about the heart of the scholarship and the intent behind it and what it means.”

The City of Lethbridge, Fort Whoop-Up, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge Public Library and Alberta Health Services will continue to celebrate the day with a variety of events and activities happening throughout the week.

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