Uni­ver­sity of Leth­bridge proudly raises Black­foot Con­fed­er­acy Flag

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Alberta -

The Uni­ver­sity of Leth­bridge is hon­oured by its re­la­tion­ship with the lo­cal Black­foot com­mu­nity and proud to be lo­cated on tra­di­tional Black­foot ter­ri­tory. Last week, the Uni­ver­sity was ex­cited to cel­e­brate this in­trin­sic bond by per­ma­nently rais­ing and fly­ing the Black­foot Con­fed­er­acy Flag.

For more than 50 years, Indige­nous cul­ture has been woven into the fab­ric of the U of L, from es­tab­lish­ing one of Canada’s first Na­tive Amer­i­can Stud­ies de­part­ments to the cre­ation of a unique pro­to­col hand­book and the ded­i­ca­tion of the Iikaisskini Gath­er­ing Place, among oth­ers. The Uni­ver­sity is both hum­bled and em­bold­ened by its ties to the Black­foot com­mu­nity and its con­tri­bu­tion to en­rich­ing pro­gram­ming, teach­ing and re­search at the U of L, and cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment of re­spect and in­clu­sion.

“The re­la­tion­ship we have tra­di­tion­ally fos­tered with the Black­foot com­mu­nity has taken on in­creased sig­nif­i­cance since the Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion Com­mis­sion of Canada (TRC) re­leased its his­toric re­ports and find­ings,” says U of L Pres­i­dent and ViceChan­cel­lor Dr. Mike Ma­hon. “While we have long val­ued our role as lead­ers in cre­at­ing op­por­tu­nity for Indige­nous pop­u­la­tions, we rec­og­nize there is much more to be done and are eager to con­trib­ute to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts.”

The rais­ing of the Black­foot Con­fed­er­acy Flag is sym­bolic of that de­sire to rec­on­cile re­la­tions be­tween abo­rig­i­nal and non­a­bo­rig­i­nal Cana­di­ans.

“This is a his­toric oc­ca­sion for the Uni­ver­sity of Leth­bridge as the in­sti­tu­tion con­tin­ues to work to­wards its com­mit­ment to the TRC’s Calls to Ac­tion and cre­at­ing a safe and in­clu­sive at­mos­phere on cam­pus for Indige­nous stu­dents,” says Roy Po­gorzel­ski, di­rec­tor of Indige­nous Stu­dent Af­fairs. “The rais­ing of the Black­foot Con­fed­er­acy Flag is an on­go­ing ter­ri­to­rial ac­knowl­edge­ment that the U of L is sit­u­ated on Black­foot ter­ri­tory, and is a strong step to­wards cre­at­ing a cam­pus of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.”

Ma­hon says it is a re­spon­si­bil­ity of not only the Uni­ver­sity of Leth­bridge, but all post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions, to ed­u­cate on a broad scale and to bring is­sues of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion to the fore­front.

“I be­lieve we are a pow­er­ful col­lec­tive that can con­trib­ute sig­nif­i­cantly to this na­tion by teach­ing a clearer un­der­stand­ing of our shared his­tory, clos­ing knowl­edge gaps for abo­rig­i­nal and non-abo­rig­i­nal stu­dents, and cre­at­ing in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions that fa­cil­i­tate ac­tion,” he says.

For Black­foot stu­dents, the pres­ence of the Black­foot Con­fed­er­acy Flag on cam­pus is a sym­bol of ac­cep­tance and a com­mit­ment from the Uni­ver­sity to con­tinue its ef­forts to cre­ate an en­vi­ron­ment where stu­dents, fac­ulty and com­mu­nity mem­bers find sup­port.

“It is a proud mo­ment for our peo­ple, as our flag is lifted so are our spir­its,” says Pi­inaakoyim “SeenFromA­far” Tail­feath­ers, a fourth-year Dhillon School of Busi­ness stu­dent. “The Sik­sikait­si­tapii have in­hab­ited this ter­ri­tory since time im­memo­rial, it is only right for our flag to fly. This is a small, yet sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward, and it is my wish that the in­sti­tu­tion con­tin­ues this im­por­tant work in the years to come. This has been many years in the mak­ing, and I have been look­ing for­ward to this mo­men­tous day.”

The Black­foot Con­fed­er­acy Flag will fly along­side flags rep­re­sent­ing Canada, the Prov­ince of Al­berta and the Uni­ver­sity of Leth­bridge on the pa­tio out­side the Stu­dents’ Union.

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