Monday saw many organizations and community members gather together for the kick off of Reconciliation Week in Lethbridge.
The City raised the Reconciliation and Metis flags alongside the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy) flag at City Hall. Lethbridge School Division (LSD) hoisted the Every Child Matters flag at the Education Centre, while the University of Lethbridge held a smudging ceremony hosted by Elder Francis First Charger at the Iikaisskini Student Gathering Place.
This week will provide many opportunities for the community to come together and learn more about the Indigenous culture found here in southern Alberta, while celebrating the Indigenous people who reside on traditional territory. This should help facilitate building stronger relationships and recognizing the accomplishments of the Indigenous community while educating people about the history.
“These events start the beginning for people to have the consciousness of what reconciliation is,” said Mike Bruised Head, Blackfoot elder. “Understanding and getting acknowledgement from those people that don’t understand reconciliation, how to establish a relationship with Blackfoot people.”
Those sentiments were echoed during LSD’s ceremony on Monday.
“Lethbridge School Division has taken it upon itself to make sure that this week is a priority. Because in truth and reconciliation, as well as teacher quality standard number five, it is the responsibility of all teachers to know about treaties and residential schools. A foundational knowledge of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people,” said Joel Tailfeathers, coordinator of Indigenous Education with LSD.
Looking to make sure there are many opportunities for residents to attend events, the City of Lethbridge has been working with partners around the city to coordinate these chances, helping organize a pow wow and pop-up medical clinic in Galt Gardens Friday as a preamble to Reconciliation Week.
“We had a great performance put on by AHS in collaboration with the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee,” said Charlene Bruised Head-Mountain Horse, Indigenous relations advisor for the City.
Elders Francis First Charger and Cathy Hunt gathered with the University of Lethbridge’s students and staff at the likaisskini Gathering Centre for a smudge ceremony and talking circle, starting off Reconciliation Week. Tobacco was distributed to those in attendance prior to prayer. Elder First Charger asked them to hold a pinch of tobacco in their right hand and hold it high, while the rest of the tobacco rested in their left hand, and asked them to pray for themselves as well as those around them who needed prayers. After the prayer was done, the tobacco was collected and the conversation continued with those in attendance.
Reconciliation Week will lead up to National Truth and Reconciliation Day on Sept. 30, with many events going on around the city.
“It is a different look at our Blackfoot community and seeing the excitement and the celebration when we all come together,” said Bruised Head-Mountain Horse. “I encourage family members, community people, to take your family and engage.”
For a list of events visit the city’s website at lethbridge.ca/NewsCentre/Pages/Reconciliation-Week-2022.aspx.
Ryan Clarke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald