June 18th, 2024

Indigenous Awareness Week underway at U of L


By Ry Clarke - for the Lethbridge Herald on April 5, 2022.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke The Iikaisskini Indigenous Student Centre at the University of Lethbridge began its Indigenous Awareness Week with a smudging ceremony lead by Francis First Charger-Ninnaisipistoo, Elder in Residence at the U of L.

The Iikaisskini Indigenous Student Centre at the University of Lethbridge hosted an opening ceremony Monday with a smudging and prayer, starting off its Indigenous Awareness Week which runs from April 4 – 7.
The ceremony was held in the Iikaisskini Indigenous Gathering Place at the University, opening back in November. Leading the smudging ceremony was Francis First Charger-Ninnaisipistoo, Elder in Residence at University of Lethbridge, who shared a prayer with those present as burning sweetgrass, sage, and cedar cleansed the air.
First Charger says Indigenous awareness is important in the community because of the teachings they pass along and the knowledge that is shared, saying, “Blackfoot words are so descriptive. I say putting sweetgrass over the coal and then we pray. It’s very significant. Very powerful.”
Lindi Shade, Manager of Iikaisskini Indigenous Student Centre, said “[the event] was about bringing prayers forward in a good way and positive way. To restore unity with our partners within the University of Lethbridge, with our students. So we can continue moving forward. Everybody came to support our event this morning, we have the president here, our elders, and residents. We have everybody coming to together to move forward in a very positive way.”
Indigenous Awareness Week normally takes place in March but due to restrictions and the strike the group moved the dates to April this year. Iikaisskini will host events throughout the week on Zoom, except the Meet and Greet Wednesday from 1-3 p.m. located at the Iikaisskina Gathering Place, celebrating the culture, beliefs, and goals of the Indigenous community.
The week will create a welcoming environment enhancing the relationship between the school and Indigenous community. Events will also look to spread awareness and knowledge about Blackfoot territory which the University of Lethbridge is located on. Ryan Lindblad, VP external for the University of Lethbridge Student Union, says events like this are vital for the knowledge they offer to the student body.
“Things like this are infinitely important. We at the SU try to get involved with groups like this as much as possible, and also just the broader Indigenous Awareness Week, as much as we can.”
Moving towards reconciliation and working on indigenization the University of Lethbridge, through the Iikaisskini Student Center, provides support and guidance to First Nations, Metis, or Inuit students. Working to help students graduate and go further in their careers through support for students and cultural programming helps foster a center of foundation that provides for its Indigenous community.
The events are open to the public and a list of events is available on the Indigenous Student Centre page.
Shade says events are for all community members to partake in, saying, “It’s really about moving forward. In a positive way, so that we can continue doing the good work we’re doing and to restore unity.”

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