December 3rd, 2020

Blackfoot names bestowed on SAAG, Catholic Central

By Jensen, Randy on October 30, 2020.

Catholic Central principal Joanne Polec, Emily Fox and Annette Bruised Head sit around Kainai Elder Tom Little Bear before he paints their faces during the Blackfoot naming ceremony on Wednesday. Photo submitted by Catholic Central High School


Blackfoot names have been bestowed on two Lethbridge institutions over the past week.

Last Friday, a Blackfoot Naming Ceremony was held at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery (SAAG. The ceremony was led by Elder Bruce Wolf Child and First Nations Education, Language & Cultural Consultant and Elder Mary Fox, as the SAAG received the Blackfoot name Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin.

SAAG noted in a news release that the board of directors and staff were extremely grateful that the gallery was gifted with a Blackfoot name by local Kainai Elders, and are committed to the journey of living into this name.

Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin is the new making of images, related to the telling of Blackfoot peoples’ stories. It describes contemporary art as the new process of making images and writings, related to the telling of ancient stories by Blackfoot people within Blackfoot territory; a continuation across time in the sharing of knowledge, culture and history across southern Alberta.

Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin connects the Blackfoot language words: maan it is new, siksikaitsitapii (of) our Blackfoot people, tsinikssin relating stories through the process of images and writings.

Meanwhile on Wednesday a small group met in the Catholic Central High School Theatre to partake in a smudge, face painting and special naming ceremony for the entire school by Kainai Elder, Tom Little Bear (Kaataomaahka – No Runner)

Little Bear began by speaking about the cultural significance of the number “four,” and how appropriate it is that Catholic Central High School should be the fourth institution in the City of Lethbridge to receive a name.

While preparing a smudge box prior to the ceremony, Elder Little Bear discussed how fortunate he was to have a strong traditional Blackfoot upbringing, where his grandparents were leaders in the sacred community. Alongside his education at home, he experienced an education rooted in the Catholic faith having been a student of Ecole St. Mary, St. Francis Junior High School and Catholic Central High School.

Woven into the story of his youth, Elder Little Bear spoke about the annual Sundance held on the Kainai reserve. This significant cultural event brings the Kainai people together to refresh themselves and reinforce their spiritual and traditional ties to the land, the Creator, and each other. He explained that, though many tipis gather at Sundance, it is always centre tipi that is considered to be the most sacred.

And, from this tale, he bestowed Catholic Central High School with its new name: Taatsikioyis – “Centre Tipi,” the sacred centre of one of the most important events in the Kainai tradition.

“It truly felt like we were on holy ground, a most sacred space. Words cannot express how blessed I feel to have had the opportunity to be present in this moment of reconciliation today,” said CCH principal Joanne Polec. “Together with the administrative team, with the continued leadership of our Division First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Principal, Annette Bruised Head, and with the guidance and collaborative support from our elders and First Nations Workers, I have no doubt that we will endeavour to live up to the name we have been given.”

Catholic Central High School’s new Blackfoot name will be prominently displayed in the school’s front foyer, reminding all who enter that they are in a sacred place.

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