Evoking the image of strength and straight paths, and celebrating promises made with honesty and integrity, Kainai Kaahsinnoonik (Grandparent) Peter Weasel Moccasin gave Lethbridge College a Blackfoot name this morning at a ceremony that kicked off the institution’s annual Indigenous Celebration Day.
The name given to the college is Ohkotoki’aahkkoiyiiniimaan, which means Stone Pipe. As Elder Peter Weasel Moccasin explained during the ceremony, stone pipes are used in sacred ceremonies of the Blackfoot people to make an offering to Iihtsipaatapi’op, the Source of Life. The pipe, he said, kept and keeps the Blackfoot people at peace.
Weasel Moccasin described how that the offering of a stone pipe is a promise or a peace bond made with the honesty and integrity needed to fulfill the commitment. During the offering of the pipe, everyone involved must uphold and carry out the promises made.
“We are so incredibly grateful to receive this name from our local Blackfoot community,” says Dr. Paula Burns, President and CEO of Lethbridge College. “We recognize the importance of Indigenous education and the vitally important perspectives that the local Indigenous community bring to the work that we do here every day. We will respect our name with a promise to continue on the straight path to improving the lives of our students and the communities that they call home.”
The land where Lethbridge College sits is the traditional territory of the Blackfoot people and the giving of a Blackfoot name is an important step towards strengthening ties with the local Indigenous community.
“Today is a very important day in the college’s history,” says Marcia Black Water, Lethbridge College Indigenous Services coordinator. “The Blackfoot name received today has great significance to the land Lethbridge College is situated on. The stone found for Blackfoot ceremonial pipes can be found in the coulees’ river bottom on the west side of the college. The name will see us through the future, a future in which Blackfoot people, all Indigenous people will be reminded that quality education is a promise our college will hold true. The name promises a coming together, good relations.”
Shanda Webber, Lethbridge College manager of Recruitment and Indigenous Services, adds: “It truly is an honour for Lethbridge College to be receiving a Blackfoot name. The naming ceremony recognizes and celebrates the meaningful relationship between the college and the local Blackfoot community, as well as solidifies our commitment and responsibility in making Indigenous education a priority.”
This fall, 374 Indigenous students are taking diploma, degree or certificate programs at Lethbridge College, representing 8.6 per cent of the college’s diploma, degree and certificate students. Lethbridge College’s efforts towards serving Indigenous students both in and out of the classroom earned it a bronze Indigenous Education Excellence award in May from Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan). The college has proudly had Indigenous students on campus for most of its 60 years and provides a “Circle of Services” to assist Indigenous learners.
Indigenous Services at Lethbridge College, in collaboration with many internal and external stakeholders, developed a three-year Niitsitapi Indigenization Plan for 2016-19. In addition, in recognition of the recommendations emanating from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada and as a signatory of CICan’s Indigenous Education Protocol, the college has also implemented an Indigenous President’s Council. This council is composed of college and Indigenous community leaders and provides guidance and direction to an internal Indigenous committee as it works to implement a three-year Indigenization Plan, which will further enhance its already extensive program and service offerings.