The Blood Tribe First Nation in Alberta is looking to pave the way for a better understanding of racism from a Kainai perspective and to develop strategies to address the long-standing societal issue.
In a release issued Aug. 31, the Blood Tribe said an evidence-based study was initiated by chief and council a couple of years ago following “a number of blatant incidents of racism directed at our people.”
“When you enter a store, people start following you around and assuming that you’re going to do something illegal, you’re going to shoplift. It’s just constant, it’s everywhere,” said tribal government member Annabel Crop Eared Wolf.
In late 2019, Gabrielle Lindstrom was enlisted as the lead researcher in the study to work alongside members of tribal government in developing and implementing the study.
Lindstrom, an associate professor in Indigenous Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, created comprehensive surveys for both Blood Tribe members, Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people.
“We asked them questions about their childhood experiences with racism and if they thought that impacted how they live their lives today,” she explained. “We asked them about their experiences with racism in the health-care system, in the justice system, in education, even in the financial world like going to a bank.
“For the non-Indigenous surveys, we asked them (what) they thought racism meant, how racism was expressed and if they thought racism was a problem in southern Alberta.”
The study also included talking circles with Kainai elders and focus group dialogue with members of non-Indigenous municipal leadership, including those in Lethbridge, Cardston and Fort Macleod.
The City of Lethbridge thanked the Blood Tribe for the invitation to be a part of the work.
“The findings of the study highlight the importance of creating social and systemic conditions in our community that create a sense of belonging and respect of Kainai and all Indigenous peoples,” a statement from the city read.
“This is why the work of reconciliation continues to be an important and meaningful strategic goal of both city council and the City of Lethbridge. We look forward to continuing to work with the Blood Tribe in reviewing the findings and recommendations of this study.”
“What I found (hopeful) was a willingness on the part of our non-Indigenous neighbours at the leadership level to participate in the project, and an acknowledgement that the problem does exist and the further willingness to participate in remedies,” said Crop Eared Wolf.
According to Lindstrom, there’s a lack of an adequate professional training methods that would change the deeply held beliefs of racism that begin in childhood.
The study also found there was a misalignment between how non-Indigenous people define and understand racism, and how it’s actually experienced by Indigenous people.
Lindstrom said she is not aware of any other studies like this in Canada.
“We’re certainly hoping that other First Nations across Turtle Island will be able to also design their own studies and use their own languages in very self-determining ways to address racism.”
With the study recommendations now in front of Blood Tribe officials, they are looking to use external and internal strategies to reframe how people think of racism and to develop an anti-racism coalition in partnership with surrounding communities.
Updates on the “Kimmapiiyipitssini – Moving Forward” implementation plan will be shared with members as it develops.
According to the Blood Tribe, funding to conduct the study was provided by the Alberta Human Rights Commission’s Human Rights Education and Multiculturalism Fund, while the implementation phase is receiving financial support from the Blood Tribe and Calgary Foundation.