April 12th, 2024

City ceremony kicks off Truth and Reconciliation Week events


By Lethbridge Herald on September 25, 2023.

Herald photo by Al Beeber Theron Black, Cindy Black and Dylan Black lead the audience at the City's Reconciliation Week opening ceremonies in a round dance at the Civic Centre track Monday morning.

Theodora Macleod
LOCAL JOURNALISM INITIATIVE REPORTER

Five days from the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, the City of Lethbridge officially kicked off what they hope will be a week of connection and learning. In the warm morning breeze, members of the community, along with members of city council, and representatives of the Indigenous community gathered at the Civic Centre track to formally begin the week of events.

Opening with grass dances by Theron and Dylan Black, as well as a jingle dress dance by Cindy Black, and drumming by Julius and Troy Delaney, the performances led into a round dance that welcomed all attendees, even a dog in a backpack named Jigzy. “The women’s jingle dress originates from Ojibwe, it’s a healing dance,” says Charlene Bruised-Head Mountain Horse, Indigenous Relations Advisor for the City of Lethbridge. Grass dancing, she explains, is a tradition that comes from the prairies and flattening the grass to make a path. “We want to share culturally some of our social aspects, which is why we always bring our dancers.” 

Prior to the official ceremony, members of the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee, along with representatives from emergency services, joined elders in a pipe ceremony. For chief of Lethbridge Fire and Emergency Services, Greg Adair, this was his first experience participating in a pipe ceremony. “It’s incredible any time you get an opportunity to look a little more and to understand and be able to learn more about the Blackfoot culture,” he says. “(Reconciliation) is about truth, understanding the truth, recognizing the path, and committing to move forward together.” 

NDP MLA for Lethbridge-West, Shannon Phillips says that though there was concern initially that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report would be overlooked, it has galvanized communities, especially Lethbridge. She adds that upon the release of the 94 calls to action in 2015, Lethbridge was among the first municipalities to present a plan of action. “It’s easy to think of reconciliation as primarily a federal matter given the relationship of the crown to the treaty and treaty people, but the fact of the matter is a lot of the doing falls to municipalities and provincial governments,” Phillips explains. 

For Bruised-Head Mountain Horse, despite the immense trauma in the history of Indigenous people, there’s still reason to celebrate. “The fact that on a federal, national level there is recognition of the impact that it has had on generations, multiple generations of First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people, it’s celebratory, it’s something to recognize, and people, maybe from the community might think ‘oh it’s just a drop in the bucket,’ but the fact is that it’s something, we’re on the map. There’s always more that can be done. So, I am appreciative of that.” 

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