Tourism Lethbridge hosted a gathering on Wednesday in honour of Treaty 7 Day.
The day marked 144 years since the signing of Treaty 7, on Sept. 22, 1877, between the Crown and several — mainly Blackfoot — bands in southern Alberta.
The gathering outside the Tourism Lethbridge visitor centre featured an elder prayer, teepee raising and walkthrough, round dance and Indigenous vendors.
“I’m really hoping that more people understand how important it is that not only do we honour the fact that this is part of our Indigenous and First Nations culture and history, but there a lot that still needs to be done,” said Tourism Lethbridge CEO Jasmine Sangria.
Sangria says that Tourism Lethbridge is working to expand Indigenous Tourism in the area.
“What we’re doing in the next three weeks is we will be setting up an Indigenous advisory committee to help us with all of our marketing plans going forward,” she said.
“I think it’s very important to have that voice at the table, to have that skin in the game, so that we do build the Indigenous tourism sector here in Lethbridge.”
The CEO of Indigenous Tourism Alberta, Shae Bird, was in attendance Wednesday. He says a greater emphasis is being put on tourism across the province.
“There’s so much demand right now for Indigenous tourism, both domestically and internationally, and we see that demand continuing to grow,” Bird said.
Bird says tourism can play a big part in reconciliation, as it provides a platform for Indigenous communities and entrepreneurs to share their stories and educate others.
“Everyone has their own story, their own history and their own culture, and they’re all willing to share that story authentically,” he said.
“A lot of people think that Indigenous tourism or Indigenous nations are homogenous throughout the country, and throughout the provinces, but that’s simply not the case.
“We have such a diversity and I think the opportunity is there for everyone to go experience that through Indigenous tourism.”
Katie Rabbit Young-Pine is a member of the Tourism Lethbridge board, and she will chair the Indigenous advisory committee. She says she’s thrilled to see the increased focus on learning about Indigenous cultures.
“I think that the word is getting out.
“I’m from the Blood Reserve and we’re starting something there on the reserve as well for tourism.
“A lot of people and a lot of interest is coming, you can see by the vendors – they’re participating – and I don’t think they have ever had that in the city here.”
Representatives for Indigenous businesses and attractions in southern Alberta were in attendance Wednesday, including Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump.
The event was one of many recognizing Reconciliation Week in Lethbridge, with National Truth and Reconciliation Day set for Sept. 30.