By Kalinowski, Tim on January 23, 2020.
Community engagement initiatives on the first phase of a potential future Indigenous cultural centre have concluded, and a report should be ready recommending the next steps forward for the Feb. 10 city council meeting.
Indigenous Relation Adviser for the City of Lethbridge Perry Stein told city council during Monday’s Community Issues Committee meeting what a broad outline of the proposed Indigenous cultural centre’s functions would hope to capture, including land-based learning, access to Blackfoot elders on a regular basis and a documented history on display for the Blackfoot people and other Indigenous cultures who call Lethbridge home. Also desired would be an accessible community kitchen, a large, open space for people to gather for social and ceremonial purposes, and resources to help urban Indigenous people, especially young people, to learn about their culture and the Blackfoot language.
Stein said another key would be public access to the site for anyone who wanted to learn more about Blackfoot culture, not just Indigenous peoples.
“This building is a bridge,” explained Stein. “This building is bringing people together. This is a place where reconciliation happens. This a place where intercultural dialogue happens; where ethical space is created. It’s not for a certain part of our community – it’s for the entire community.”
Stein said the consultants the City hired to look into the feasibility of an Indigenous cultural centre in Lethbridge would report back to council again on Feb. 10 with recommendations on what the governance structure of such a facility would ideally look like.
“The challenge in these projects is people always want to rush to the solution, we want to rush the architect’s renderings,” Stein stated, “but the most important aspect of this project is the engagement in the process. We have to ensure it is meaningful and people feel reflected in it – that will create the financial and governance stability to make this project an actual success.”
After decades of talking about building an Indigenous cultural centre without much action to show for it, such a centre has never been closer to reality than it is today, said Stein.
“It has been a long time coming,” he stated. “I think the Indigenous community is excited that the City sees itself as a partner in this project, and is looking forward to what role that will take in the future. I think there is a ton of interest from across the Indigenous community.”
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