The 20th annual International Peace Pow-Wow and Festival kicked off in Lethbridge this weekend. The cultural event drew thousands from across the region for traditional Blackfoot song and dance performances on Saturday.
“This is the largest cultural event we hold in Lethbridge,” said Kim Gallucci, general manager of the ENMAX Centre.
READ MORE: Lethbridge College receives Blackfoot name
Premier Rachel Notley was given the Blackfoot name Aksitooskitsiphpaki, which means “Braveheart Woman.”
“It is such a tremendous honour for me to have been invited here by the leadership of the Blackfoot Confederacy, to have been honoured by the elders and to have been honoured with this incredible name,” Notley said Saturday.
Jason Goodstriker, the chief electoral officer of the Assembly of First Nations of Alberta, said it’s not about politics.
“It was just something that we like to do to prepare our leaders of the political party. Regardless of partisan business, we just like to have our leaders prepared as they go forward to represent us and Albertans,” he said.
WATCH (Feb. 24): Premier Rachel Notley received a Blackfoot honour at the 20th annual Peace Pow-Wow and Festival. The premier was the guest of honour and was given a Blackfoot name and headdress, a tradition dating back generations. Chris Chacon has more.
The decision to give Notley a Blackfoot name and headdress is drawing criticism on social media.
“I don’t agree, I feel like it’s a slap in the face to First Nations people giving headdress to politicians that don’t care of our people,” Facebook user Lilian Crowshoe posted. “To them we are not human — white privilege at its best.”
“Who was consulted about this decision?” Dee Brown posted. “I’m pretty sure the general consensus of the population strongly disagrees about honouring a politician who has forsaken so many of our people.”
Notley responded to criticism by saying: “I understand that, within the community, there’s debate on this practice. I think that’s a debate that should happen within the community. When we were invited by the leadership and by the elders, we wanted to honour that invitation and so we did.
“I hope the conversation carries on, and all I want to do is make sure we honour the gift that we’ve been given.”
Event organizer Mary Ann Crow Healy said she was grateful the premier went to the festival.
“This is the only time that a premier has ever attended our event,” she said.
Healy called it a rare opportunity and something that she believes Notley and Lethbridge-East MLA Maria Fitzpatrick deserve.
Fitzpatrick received a Blackfoot name, Motoikitstakiaki, which translates to “Offerings in Many Places.” Leroy Little Bear — a recipient of the Order of Canada — and University of Lethbridge chancellor Charles Weaselhead were presented with an honour dance.