Lethbridge College president and CEO Dr. Paula Burns has received one of the highest honors from the college’s Kainai grandparent Peter Weasel Moccasin: her own Blackfoot name.
“Piita’gaaksiimaaki. It means Eagle Bone Whistle, or just shorten it: ‘Eagle Whistle Woman.'”
“I felt that was a very appropriate name for her because she helps numerous people globally and locally,” Weasel Moccasin said.
“She helps them get educated in a good way so that when they leave this college, they’ll be able to find the things they want to do in life. She has that responsibility.”
Burns was given her Blackfoot name during a special ceremony on Indigenous Celebration Day Thursday at the college, where she has worked as president and CEO since 2013.
Celebrating her continuous dedication and work with Indigenous communities over the last five years, the naming ceremony was an emotional moment.
“It is a huge, huge honor. It’s actually hard to describe in words,” said Burns. “I’m very respectful of what it means to be given a Blackfoot name and the responsibilities that come with that.”
Burns has also done extensive work creating awareness and inclusion opportunities for Indigenous culture during her time at the institution.
This includes the permanent raising of the Blackfoot confederacy flag in 2017 as well as a new strategy that will be effective in the spring of 2019 to help make Indigenous education a priority for all students.
“This journey never ends,” said Burns, “this is just the start of it.”
READ MORE: Lethbridge College receives Blackfoot name
Burns’ new Blackfoot name wasn’t the only thing unveiled during Lethbridge College’s annual Indigenous Celebration Day. A new display representing the institution’s location on Blackfoot territory was also revealed.
“Our hope is to have people come into our college and be able to learn about what it means to stand on Blackfoot lands,” said Marcia Black Water, coordinator of Indigenous Services at Lethbridge College.
The new display sits in Centre Core and is named Ohkotoki’aahkkoiyiiniimaan after the college’s Blackfoot name, which means “stone pipe.”
“We wanted to really have it complement our Blackfoot name,” said Black Water.
“We wanted to tell that story of the Blackfoot people, to be able to see the present, that we’ve persevered from the past and we’re still going and we’re still here and we’re moving forward.”
Indigenous Celebration Day also featured cultural displays as well as traditional music, dancing and food to honor the more than 300 Indigenous students currently studying at Lethbridge College.