April 24th, 2024

University celebrates start of Indigenous Awareness Week


By Lethbridge Herald on March 11, 2024.

Dancers gather at the start of Indigenous Awareness Week on Monday at the University of Lethbridge. Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan

Steffanie Costigan – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The University of Lethbridge celebrated the start of Indigenous Awareness Week with a Blackfoot naming ceremony, and mini powwow on Monday. 

Indigenous Awareness Week will be celebrated at the university until Friday. 

“What Indigenous Awareness Week does is bring people together and build relationships,” said vice-provost, Iniskim Indigenous Relations, Leroy Little Bear.

Little Bear added “the more we talk to each other, the better we know each other, the easier it is to work together. In my words, it’s all about relationships. If we have good relationships, it’s much easier to work together and to cooperate.”

The Faculty of Fine Arts received a Blackfoot name “Piiksinaasin.” Translated it means “Fancy Writer.”

Heather Davis-Fisch, Dean of Fine Arts, shared the impact receiving an Indigenous name has not only for the fine arts faculty but for Indigenous students. 

“Having the gift of an Indigenous name, of a Blackfoot name, does two things for our students, I think for Blackfoot students and for Indigenous students. It signals that the Faculty of Fine Arts is committed to reconciliation and to de-colonial practices. 

“And I think the gifting of an Indigenous name for the fine arts, signals to students that the faculty takes that responsibility to Indigenous students really seriously,” she said.

Various activities will be happening  this week, including an Indigenous Artisans Market launching “We are Iniskim” merchandise. 

Along with a West Coast fashion show, dance and singing demonstration, a decolonizing Wikipedia “editathon” and a smudge box workshop with Elder Shirlee Crow Shoe are planned today and Wednesday. On Thursday and Friday will be a film screening and discussion of Iniskim – Return of the Buffalo on Thursday, and a Métis meet-up Friday.

University president and vice chancellor Digvir Jayas said “it’s like University of Lethbridge being in the Blackfoot Confederacy has always been committed to working with the Indigenous partners, and particularly the Blackfoot nations. 

“And we had always made an effort to create a welcoming environment for Indigenous students, staff, and faculty members. So Indigenous Awareness Week really is to expose all students, Indigenous as well as non-Indigenous students to the Indigenous way of doing things, and how to then incorporate those Indigenous perspectives in our research work in our teaching in our community engagement,” said Jayas. 

Davis-Fisch voiced the important step it is moving towards reconciliation in celebrating Indigenous Awareness Week.

“It gives students, and non-Indigenous faculty and non-Indigenous staff a sense that we’re all responsible for reconciliation, and that we all need to be committed to decolonial practices and that needs to be embedded into our work going forward,” she said.

Please note: a transcription error led to a misquote in an earlier version of this story. The Herald apologizes for the error.

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