October 20th, 2020

Blackfoot flag raised over City Hall


By Nick Kuhl on June 22, 2019.

Tim Kalinowski
Lethbridge Herald
Against a backdrop of uncertainty, with thunder clouds peaking over
the horizon in a momentarily placid sky, The City of Lethbridge raised
the flag of the Blackfoot Confederacy high over City Hall on Friday to
mark National Indigenous Peoples Day. That weather uncertainty was in
some ways emblematic of where the City of Lethbridge finds itself
today in its relationship with its Indigenous residents and neighbours.
No one ever said reconciliation was easy, Mayor Chris Spearman told
those who came out for the flagraising, but he hoped by the City
leading the way and putting its money where its mouth is by forming
the City’s reconciliation committee that the crossroads we find
ourselves at with our Indigenous community members would lead to a
more hopeful and prosperous future for all.
“Racism and homelessness are part of our past,” Spearman said at
one point in his impassioned speech to the
assembly. “Reconciliation is our future.”
Spearman later clarified what he meant by this rhetorical flourish to
local media members.
“We have lived in two solitudes (with our Indigenous people) for
decades,” Spearman said, invoking the title of the classic novel by
Hugh MacLennan. “We haven’t recognized why that is not healthy.
Creating opportunity and bringing together the two worlds is very
important.”
Spearman neatly avoided a question about why it is important to
acknowledge we are on Blackfoot traditional territory when the Kenney
government has shown a much-publicized reluctance to acknowledge
traditional lands and peoples in public speeches since being elected.
Spearman said what happens elsewhere is not his concern, and what he
would focus on as Mayor of the City of Lethbridge is what should be
done locally.
“The City of Lethbridge has to be a leader,” he said. “Access to
housing, access to employment, has to be unrestricted, and we have to
make sure everyone has access to equal opportunity.”
Lethbridge East MLA Nathan Neudorf showed no personal reluctance to
make his own acknowledgement statement at the flagraising event.
“Acknowledging and recognizing the lands of Treaty 7 people, and the
obligations we have to the Blackfoot and Métis people, are significant
and central to what we are here to do today,” Neudorf said.
He also tipped his hat to the efforts the City and local school
divisions have made to advance truth and reconciliation goals in
Lethbridge.
“I hope to join them in the important work of reconciliation with all
First Nations,” he stated,  “and the healing of their people and
their lands.”
MP Rachael Harder, who is still in Ottawa, also sent a statement to
be read at the flagraising which forcefully acknowledged the
“vital” relationship southern Alberta has with its Indigenous
peoples.
Amanda Scout, co-chair of the City’s reconciliation committee, said
while there is much work to do, the City of Lethbridge’s efforts to
lead the way toward forging a new relationship with local Indigenous
peoples was encouraging.
“I really feel their efforts here (at the City and in council) are
genuine,” she said, “and I think it’s going to start to show in
the community. We hope, anyway. We have to start somewhere, and I
think it’s awesome when leaders (show the way).”
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