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Partnership welcomes students to school with 'Oki'

Students, teachers and families will soon be welcomed through the gates of their school with a welcoming ‘Oki’ thanks to a partnership with the City of Lethbridge.

The City’s Indigenous Relations Office has funded and provided materials for each school in the Lethbridge School Division and the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division to create an ‘Oki’ sign in their existing fencing. The project stems from the approved Indigenous Place Making Strategy (IPS) which was approved by City Council in 2021. 

Students at École St. Mary School with their newly installed Oki sign.

“We know there are limited opportunities for residents and visitors to meaningfully engage with the stories, languages, and cultures of the Niitsitapi (Blackfoot) and other Indigenous peoples who call Sikóóhkotok (Lethbridge) home,” says the City’s Indigenous Relations Advisor, Charlene Bruised Head-Mountain Horse. “Meaningful connection is seen as a pathway to Reconciliation, but also ensures Indigenous peoples feel respected, reflected and connected to the places they call home.”

The IPS seeks to address gaps in meaningful engagement and invest in public spaces to reflect Siksikaitsitapi Kitao’ahsinnooni, or Blackfoot Confederacy Territory. This work also aims to address racism, discrimination and Truth and Reconciliation more broadly in the community.  

“Lethbridge School Division is proud to partner with the City of Lethbridge on this important initiative,” said Lethbridge School Division Board Chair, Allison Purcell. “As we mark Reconciliation Week, the Division is always looking for new ways to acknowledge our Indigenous community. We hope this initiative is another step on the path to ensuring our schools are welcoming places for Indigenous students, each and every day of the school year.”

The Oki sign materials were distributed to each school division at the beginning of the school year. Schools have the opportunity to involve students in the placement and installation of the signs and may use it as a way to discuss Reconciliation.

The City of Lethbridge adopted Oki as the official greeting in 2019 to promote greater use and respect for the Blackfoot language in Sikóóhkotok (Lethbridge).

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