July 15th, 2024

City celebrates National Indigenous Peoples Day

By Justin Sibbet - Lethbridge Herald Local Journalism Initiative Reporter on June 22, 2024.

Herald photo by Justin Sibbet Michael Big Swan constructs an LPS tipi with the help of other volunteers during the National Indigenous People's Day celebrations at Galt Gardens.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDjsibbet@lethbridgeherald.com

Visitors flocked to downtown to celebrate and experience traditional Indigenous heritage on National Indigenous Peoples Day.

With events spanning across the entire city, Galt Gardens became the hub of entertainment with food, music, games and other activities available to the public.

Echo Nowak, Indigenous Relations specialist with the City of Lethbridge, says the high turnout is a truly positive sign.

“It just shows you how people want to learn about our culture… we are so much more than dancing and performing,” said Nowak. “We are artists, we are singers, we are entrepreneurs.”

She says it not only puts Indigenous culture in a positive light, but it also enables community members to understand more about Indigenous people.

“We just want everyone who doesn’t know about Indigenous culture to come out and learn.”

Nowak says this is an important note because Indigenous people do exist in Lethbridge, as neighbours and community members.

“We’re not going anywhere, so get to know us.”

Following along these lines of inclusion, Elaine Creighton (Yellow Bird Woman, in Blackfoot), executive director of the Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society, says no matter a person’s race, we are all the same under our skin.

“At the end of the day, black, white, red, yellow… you come out as one – a human,” said Creighton.

To demonstrate this message, members of the Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society were at their tipi in Galt Gardens, providing food and conversation to anyone interested.

“As one of my elders just recently said at a meeting in the city, to us, food is spirituality,” said Creighton. “So, whenever we have a gathering, we always feed… that’s part of our culture, it’s really important.”

As for the importance of National Indigenous Peoples Day, Creighton says, on a personal level, the day symbolizes an opportunity for the positives of Indigenous culture to shine.

“I don’t like to dwell on the negative. I like to live in the present,” said Creighton. “What are we doing today? We are extending our friendship.”

She says events like the one at Galt Gardens also offer a glimpse of the efforts being made to ensure a bright future for Indigenous youth.

“What do we hope to do? Prevention of these young people being homeless and being on addictions and being on the streets.”

She says there has been a shift in Indigenous strategies to ensure the future is left in good hands.

“The sleeping giant, the seventh generation, they’re standing up now,” said Creighton.

“A lot of our people need to have some trauma-based healing and then, from there, divert them to their career education.”

This, Creighton says, is the best method to help Indigenous youth maintain a positive standing in their lives.

“I’ve run programs like that, facilitated programs like that and that’s what helps,” said Creighton.

Like Nowak, Creighton says the turnout at Galt Gardens was a wonderful thing to experience, even affording her organization some partnership opportunities.

“I think we’re building a really good reputation,” said Creighton. “We’re making headway in a good, positive way. So, we’re kind of trending.”

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Say What . . .

Chief Clarence Louie of the Osoyoos Band in Okanagan is known for travelling and sharing his successful business policies which brought his band from poverty to prosperity. Perhaps you could have him come to Standoff to speak.
Most of your land is leased out to non-Indigenous farmers, while many of your young have no work in your communities. Farming and ranching is something which could bring major change for your people. Many of the young I spoke with on our streets have worked with cattle.
There are opportunities I am sure that Chief Louie could see you are missing.
Chief Louie was a graduate of the U of L before becoming Chief! He is a success story and worth researching that success!

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