By Ryan Clarke
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Lethbridge College kicked off its two-day Stone Pipe Days celebrations on campus Wednesday.
The annual celebration recognizes the history and knowledge of Indigenous communities on campus and runs through today. Showcasing Indigenous culture with dancing, singing, and traditional foods, the college also made a splash on Wednesday by signing onto the Buffalo Treaty as a supporter.
“The importance of the Buffalo Treaty is huge for the college,” said Brad Donaldson, college president and CEO.
“It is a major step as we move forward with our Truth and Reconciliation journey. The buffalo is so culturally important to the Blackfoot community, representing food, shelter, and clothing, the essence of sustainability and survival for their people. Now that education is the new buffalo, it is a way to create the future for young people.”
Last week, the University of Lethbridge signed on during its Indigenous Awareness Week.
“The buffalo is a keystone species when it comes to the environment,” said Lowell Yellowhorn, Manager of Indigenous Services at the College.
“But it also a keystone species in the support of Indigenous culture amongst the northern plains.”
First signed on September 24, 2014, at the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana it was signed by eight First Nations, four from the U.S., and four from Canada.
Since then, it has gathered nearly 50 signatures from other First Nations, working towards an agreement to educate and protect the environment that is home to the buffalo.
“When we see these events occur and reoccur, new groups join on,” said Leroy Little Bear, Vice-Provost for Indigenous Relations at the University.
“From the original eight that have signed on, it has kept increasing every year and so on. We are close to 50 now.”
Events will continue today with performances from Kainai Grassland singers starting at 10:30 a.m. in the Val Matteotti Gymnasium.
“Stone Pipe Days in general is a celebration of the Indigenous culture here on campus,” said Yellowhorn. “The Blackfoot name that was gifted to Lethbridge College, Ohkotoki’aahkkoiyiiniimaan, refers to stone pipe. The story of the stone pipe relates to the local environment here at Lethbridge College.
“It’s only right that we engage in a process to help reintroduce the Buffalo. It was almost extinct at one point in its history,” said Yellowhorn. “Today is only Day One, tomorrow we have another sate of events to share with the community.”
Ryan Clarke is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the LETHBRIDGE HERALD. The LJI is a federally funded program.