As the Blackfoot Confederacy flag was raised at Lethbridge city hall to mark National Indigenous Peoples Day, Mayor Chris Spearman and Blood Tribe councillors pledged to continue working together.
Dancing and drums celebrated Indigenous culture, but the ceremony also centered on the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at a Kamloops residential school and the city’s role in reconciliation.
“What are the next steps? What are the calls to action that we need to address next?” Spearman asked. “How do we address some fundamental issues in the city of Lethbridge?
“We know there are issues.”
At Spearman’s last National Indigenous Peoples Day as mayor, Blood Tribe councillors, including councillor Tony Delaney-Day Rider, spoke about the mayor’s impact improving Indigenous culture in the city.
These conversations are expected to continue after the city and Blood Tribe signed a memorandum of understanding back in May, focusing on health and wellness, economic development, community planning and communication with Indigenous peoples.
Delaney-Day Rider wants to see those conversations on a larger scale.
“To actually put that into action and to have that meaningful discussion and dialogue among all First Nation groups.”
Lethbridge College hosted its own virtual ceremony, where Indigenous services manager Shanda Webber spoke about living on traditional Blackfoot territory and building relationships with the Indigenous community.
“It’s about having those hard conversations and gaining a better understanding of the true histories of the past and current issues of today,” Webber said.
City of Lethbridge Indigenous relations coordinator Pamela Beebe says the best way to understand is by learning about Indigenous culture.
“I’m really hoping people get to know us and attend our events and learn.”
“Yes, there’s a lot of trauma in the past, but there’s also a lot of wonderful, great things happening.”
The Blackfoot Confederacy flag will become permanent at city hall, as construction is underway to add flagpoles on the grounds.