By Mabell, Dave on November 19, 2019.
In Whitehorse, the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre has become the signature piece in the Yukon city’s riverfront redevelopment plan. Near Saskatoon, the Wanuskewin Heritage Park shares the story of the Indigenous peoples of the northern plains.
There’s nothing comparable in Alberta to tell the story of the Blackfoot Confederacy, however. On Monday, a visioning conference opened in Lethbridge to discern what could be done in response to that need.
Nearly 100 people will be taking part in the two-day event, representing Blackfoot leaders, educators and professionals as well as southern Alberta’s arts, tourism, business and educational services.
It’s too soon to predict what form a cultural centre could take, said Perry Stein, Indigenous relations adviser for the City of Lethbridge. It’s hoped participants will create a vision for the project, as well as a plan to support it.
“It could be a place where healing and wellness could take place,” he says.
Recommendations from conference participants will be sent to city council early in the new year, Stein says. Council recently included $300,000 in its capital budget to start the process, he explains.
“Council will decide how it wants to proceed.”
But discussions around the need for an Indigenous cultural initiative have been taking place for a number of years, Stein says. While major attractions like Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump and the Writing-on-Stone UNESCO site focus on early history, other facilities across Canada were created to share knowledge about First Nations and Aboriginal peoples in recent and current times.
As an example, he says, archeologist Blair First Rider was part of the team that assisted with the expansive “human history” gallery at the new Royal Alberta Museum in Edmonton. Now senior curator at Head-Smashed-In, First Rider is one of more than 20 invited to speak during the conference.
Its themes, Stein says, include language and learning, visual and performance arts, place-making with community and ceremonial spaces, traditional food, the creative economy (including tourism and entrepreneurship), health and wellness, and “the voice of the land.”
Those fields of interest could later involve many more southern Albertans, he notes. As plans proceed, Stein expects more community members will support the vision.
“Partnerships are so important.”
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