As an important step showing its commitment to being a leader in reconciliation, Lethbridge College signed the Buffalo Treaty today at a ceremony that kicked off the college’s annual Stone Pipe Days celebration.
Lethbridge College is the first Canadian college to sign the treaty, which was created to honour, recognize and revitalize the time immemorial relationship Indigenous people have with the buffalo, and to commit to working so that people and buffalo will once again live together to nurture each other culturally and spiritually. The treaty was first signed in 2014 by four First Nations in Canada and four Indigenous tribes in the United States on the Blackfeet Reservation near Browning, Mont., and it was the first treaty signed among First Nations in more than 100 years.
“The signing of this treaty is an historic opportunity for the college to showcase its leadership in reconciliation,” says Lowell Yellowhorn (Spiitawakasi/Tall Deer), Lethbridge College’s Indigenous Services manager. “In leaving our names on this document as witnesses to this agreement, we are committing to building relationships with other signatories and working alongside them in pursuit of a common – and important – goal.”
Two articles of the treaty are especially important to the work happening at Lethbridge College – Article V (Education) and Article VI (Research).
“Blackfoot Elders call education the ‘new buffalo,’ and I am really moved by that comparison,” says Lethbridge College President and CEO Dr. Brad Donaldson. “In traditional Blackfoot culture, the buffalo was used to provide almost everything a person needed – food, clothing, shelter and community – and that is what education can do for people today.
“Coming together during our Stone Pipe Days celebration and being the first Canadian college to sign this historic treaty is one way we can show our ongoing commitment to realizing the buffalo ways for future generations,” he adds. “In signing the treaty, we are committing to transferring knowledge, developing programs, and perpetuating knowledge-gathering and knowledge-sharing to younger generations.”
Today’s event included an historic overview of the treaty by Dr. Leroy Little Bear, one of Canada’s most respected Indigenous academic voices. He is also the Vice-Provost, Iniskim Indigenous Relations at the University of Lethbridge, was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2019, and was awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2016.
“The signing by Lethbridge College is a fantastic cause for celebration,” says Little Bear. “When we see others joining, it’s very fulfilling.”
The signing ceremony was followed by entertainment, the serving of berry soup and bannock, and the chance to purchase creations by Indigenous craft vendors until 2 p.m. More Stone Pipe Days activities are planned for Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.
The original signed Buffalo Treaty can be viewed at Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Archive and Library. Learn more about the treaty here, and get all of the details of the Stone Pipe Days schedule and celebration here.
Lethbridge College was given the name Ohkotoki’aahkkoiyiiniimaan, which means Stone Pipe, by Kainai Kaahsinnoonik (grandparent) Peter Weasel Moccasin in 2017. As he explained, stone pipes are used in sacred ceremonies of the Blackfoot people to make an offering to Iihtsipaatapi’op, the Source of Life.
The college is located on the traditional lands of the Siksikaitsitapi (Blackfoot Confederacy), and members of the community strive to be leaders in implementing the actions of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. This commitment includes working to support the education of Indigenous learners and all people in the community as well as the Indigenization of campus and the curriculum. Lethbridge College implemented its Niitsitapi Strategy in 2021 and offers a “Circle of Services” to assist Indigenous learners and help them be successful on their journey of pursuing a post-secondary education.