Prairie Post (West Edition)
University launches the Iikaisskini Gathering Centre
The University of Lethbridge officially opened the Iikaisskini Gathering Centre Thursday. Named after Dr. Leroy Little Bear, the centre will work as an integral space for Indigenous students and the campus community to gather and celebrate learning. Designed as a home away from home the space will appropriate ceremony, smudging, and celebrations for students to come and collaboratively support one another.
“I think it is important that we have a space where we can come together as Indigenous students, but also non-Indigenous students. Sharing our cultures and stories,” said Nathan Crow, Indigenous student representative on the Students Union Council.
“It is a very historic day for the University of Lethbridge, and for the university community. It is a great day for the whole idea about reconciliation. Even though the Iikaisskini centre might be primarily focused at Indigenous students, it is also for all students. It is a centre for reconciliation to be realized,” said Little Bear.
Crow says the work done to create the space has inspired him during his academic career and helps show how the work being done can inspire others.
“It’s a lot easier to do something and take on an initiative when there is someone who looks like you, doing that same thing,” said Crow. “That is something I really value by creating these spaces for my Indigenous peers. Because you never know who might look up to you, or who you might influence, because there’s leaders in everyday situations. They don’t have to be in the technical leadership role.”
Little Bear says the University has always looked to how it can be inclusive to Indigenous people, noting an experience he had with the founding president Walter Alvah Samuel (Sam) Smith where he was invited to his home with other facility members to discuss inclusion.
“I told him, I don’t know if I’m a representative of all of them. I’m just one person, why don’t you ask them. That’s what started all this inclusion. So Native American studies, which is now Indigenous Studies, came to be back in the ‘70s. Now it is throughout the whole university,” said Little Bear.
Opening its doors to all members of campus, Iikaisskini will foster a safe space for Indigenous culture, sharing Blackfoot knowledge and culture with all who come through its doors.
“It’s really important that students have a space where they feel safe and a sense of belonging and community. I feel like this is going to be a space where generations of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students can really come to share their culture and create long lasting relationships,” said Crow.