Lethbridge College recognizes Truth and Reconciliation Week as an important time for both the college and the country to pause, learn, mourn and recognize the history of Indigenous people in Canada and the lasting harmful legacy of the residential school system.
In recognition of the week, Lethbridge College has planned two major events, along with several other initiatives, from Sept. 27 to 30. These include the unveiling of the Iissksiniip Coulee Walk on Tuesday, Sept. 28 and a keynote address from Truth and Reconciliation Commission member Dr. Wilton Littlechild on Wednesday, Sept. 29.
“As residents on the traditional lands of the Blackfoot Confederacy, and an educational institution, we need to be leaders in truth, reconciliation and education,” says Dr. Paula Burns, Lethbridge College President and CEO. “Our Indigenous Services team has gone above and beyond to create interactive, learning-from-place opportunities that will allow our community to learn more about the area we call home, as well as providing paths forward towards truth and reconciliation.”
On Tuesday, the college will officially unveil the Iissksiniip (Coming to Know and Learn) Coulee Walk. Created by traditional Blackfoot plant knowledge keeper and artist William Singer III (Api’soomaahka – Running Coyote), the walk is an interpretative self-guided tour that explores the traditional plants found in the area and their uses and shares some of the traditional creation stories of the Siksikaitsitapi, the Blackfoot Confederacy.
On Wednesday, the college will host a program recognizing the importance of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The program will include a moment of silence for all children who never made it home from residential schools, an opening prayer, the Lethbridge College Honour Song and words of welcome. Next, Dr. Wilton Littlechild, a Cree chief, residential school survivor and lawyer who has worked both nationally and internationally, including with the United Nations to advance Indigenous rights and treaties, will give a keynote address. He has also – through leadership with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission – raised awareness of former Canadian policies that decimated the livelihood and culture of Indigenous Canadians.
“It is important to use this first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation as a chance to speak openly about the truth of the pain and suffering that has been inflicted on generations of Indigenous people in this country,” says Shanda Webber, manager of Indigenous Services. “Bringing in a speaker as decorated and respected as Dr. Littlechild will help open up these conversations to the entire Lethbridge College community.”
Webber continues: “This truth telling of Canada’s dark history and legacy of residential school is a must if we want to ensure this catastrophe does not happen ever again. It is not about placing blame, causing harm, or to elicit guilt but how we can move forward together.”
Beginning today, the college will also host an Indigenous artist showcase in the LC Gallery located in Niitsitapi’ksimpstaan (The Buchanan Library) featuring bronze statues sculpted by Mike Day Chief and Art Calling Last as well as an Indigenous Services display in Centre Core, where Truth and Reconciliation Commission booklets will be available. In addition, the Lethbridge College Bookstore will be selling Every Child Matters orange shirts, with all proceeds going to the Sage Clan.
“We must recognize that residential schools are not part of the distant past and the effects continue to affect generations of Indigenous people across the country,” says Lowell Yellowhorn, Indigenous Cultural and Curriculum advisor. “I urge everyone to use this time to learn more, to read the stories of Indigenous people and their treatment over generations, to ask questions and to have conversations. Truth is the first step towards moving forward with reconciliation.”
Learn more about Lethbridge College’s Truth and Reconciliation Week events at lethbridgecollege.ca/everychildmatters. Lethbridge College will be closed on Sept. 30 in recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.