The Galt Museum & Archives was filled on Monday with a number of people from southern Alberta looking at the possibility of creating an Indigenous cultural centre in the City of Lethbridge.
“The purpose of this conference is really to bring together our Indigenous community partners and other stakeholders in the community to come to some sort of shared understanding of what role an Indigenous cultural centre might play in Lethbridge’s future,” said Perry Stein, Indigenous relations advisor for the city.
Stein said the two-day conference is part of a feasibility study that the City of Lethbridge granted funding to after hearing significant interest from the public.
“The need for an Indigenous cultural centre has been raised a number of times over the last 10 to 15 years through a number of different planning projects, but also from more community grassroots projects,” said Stein.
“In the last capital budget, city council funded this feasibility study to really explore what that means.”
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One of the community partners advocating for a cultural centre is the Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society. The society feels a centre is needed as the Indigenous community continues to grow as a younger generation moves to the city for school and work.
“The culture, of course, is a big thing, a lot of our young people are now asking questions and wanting to learn more about their cultural identity,” said Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society executive director Travis Plaited Hair.
Stein said the goal of the conference is to map what a cultural centre would look like, and how it would operate.
“The scope of this project is really broad. When we started this project… we don’t even know if this is a thing, if it’s a building, if it’s something more digital-based, all of these have been a part of the conversation.”
Plaited Hair is hoping the centre is a new facility that the growing indigenous population can access within the city, which sits on traditional Blackfoot land.
“I think we need a physical location that’s central, that’s for the Indigenous population of Lethbridge, and I think it’s time.”
Stein said no matter what shape the centre takes, it will be about bringing people together. The results of the study are expected to be presented to council in February.