June 20th, 2024

U of L celebrates start of Indigenous Awareness Week

By Ry Clarke - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on March 7, 2023.

Herald photo by Ry Clarke Elder Francis First Charger leads an honour song to celebrate the Blackfoot naming of the University of Lethbridge community members Monday during the opening ceremonies for Indigenous Awareness Week.

The University of Lethbridge held an opening ceremony Monday morning to kick off its Indigenous Awareness Week. The university will be hosting a week of educational seminars on campus promoting the history and culture of the Indigenous community. The university is committed to creating a welcoming environment, using the week to highlight its unique relationship to Indigenous people and showcase their culture on its campus.

“Indigenous Awareness Week has been going on since 1976,” said Leroy Little Bear, Vice-Provost, Iniskim Indigenous Relations.

“It is a huge celebration about Indigenous culture being brought to the university. We have said, in regards to organizing students to have a club, that it makes (the university) feel much more like a home, students are at ease. But it is also a cause for educating and showing our culture, how we do things, and so forth.”

Among events, the university will be celebrating the ratification of its newest Indigenous Student Club, All My Relations “Nikso’kowaisi”.

“One event that I am really excited about is happening on Thursday, from 4:30 to 6:30 (p.m.). We are having a launch party for the All My Relations Indigenous Student Association student club that was ratified last month,” said Nathan Crow, Indigenous Student Representative for the Students Union Council.

“It’s a continuation of the Indigenous students association that was formerly known as the Native American Student Association, which was ratified and created way back when Dr. Leroy Little Bear was a student. It was the longest standing club here at the University.”

Included in the opening ceremony was a naming ceremony for four members of the university community. Martha Mathurin-Moe, Executive Director for Equity Diversity and Inclusion, Erasmus Okine, Provost and Vice-President Academic, Mike Whipple, Executive Director of President and Provost Offices, and Kerry Godfrey, Dean of the Dhillon School of Business, all received a traditional Blackfoot name for their work in the Indigenous community.

“It is a deep honour to be given a Blackfoot name. It comes with a degree of responsibility, you have to steward the land upon which you live and work. When I was given my Blackfoot name (Akaisamo’too), which means one who came a long time ago, it means that you have an opportunity to be responsible to the community that you work in,” said Mathurin-Moe.

“I get to work alongside my amazing colleagues in Iniskim Indigenous Relations. I think we are both different, but we are both on the same path. Creating an authentic sense of belonging for our students. We want our students to see this as a place away from home, no matter where they come from, or what identities they have, they feel safe on our campuses.”

Those looking to check out the event schedule can go to ulethbridge.ca/indigenous/indigenous-awareness-week for a full list.

“I feel it is important to showcase the Indigenous cultures here at the University,” said Crow.

“Because it is a destination university, there are students coming in from all areas, not only Canada, but internationally. It is important that we provide them with the factual and correct information on our cultures. Let the public know how diverse and varied we are as peoples.”

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