April 12th, 2024

University launches call to stand up against racism


By Theodora MacLeod - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on September 28, 2023.

Herald photo by Theodora MacLeod Shane McDougall leads a group making medicine bags in the Iikaisskini Gathering Place, following the Iniskim Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Challenge Launch at the University of Lethbridge.

The University of Lethbridge has a challenge for staff and students. The institution launched its Iniskim Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action Challenge on Tuesday at a ceremony on campus. The call put forth was for members of the university community to stand up against racism and personally commit to actions that will support reconciliation.

As Shanda Weber told those in attendance, the end of September was chosen as a time of commemoration and acknowledgement as it was in the autumnal season that Indigenous children were taken from their homes and brought to residential schools. Originally dubbed “Orange Shirt Day,” September 30 became National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in 2021.

Following a prayer by Shirlee Crow Shoe, Leroy Little Bear, founding member of Canada’s first Native American Studies department, took the stage to provide an engaging, and often humourous, summary of the history of what is now known as Canada from an Indigenous perspective.

“I want to take you to when I was born… 350 A.D,” he joked before explaining St. Augustine’s “just war theory” that justifies acts of war if done for holy reasons and the pursuit of peace. Little Bear described the discovery of St. Augustine’s work centuries later as the Pope of the time finding “the hard drive of St. Augustine.”

From the outbreak of disease to the Indian Act and John A. Macdonald, Little Bear provided a relatively thorough timeline of events given his limited time.

“It’s not just history happening one after another, but a whole bunch of things and systems and world views that come along with them. And today is a celebration of us,” he says.

As he closed his speech, Little Bear restated the importance of Truth and Reconciliation for today and the future, emphasizing the healing needed to mend the relationship between “the newcomers and our Indigenous people.”

Echoing Little Bear, new university president and vice-chancellor Digvir Jayas affirmed the university’s commitment to reconciliation and moving forward with the Indigenous community.

He stated that it is the responsibility of the university to respond to the calls of the Truth and Reconciliation commission in a meaningful way and that the University of Lethbridge is committed to doing so.

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