Reconciliation efforts recognized by community at inaugural awards evening
Recognition of community building and unity unfolded in a cultural celebration as the City of Lethbridge and the Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee (RLAC) held the first Reconciliation Awards evening Monday night in City Hall.
“This event truly showcases the outstanding dedication shown by people in our community to build strong and lasting equality here in Sikóóhkotok (Lethbridge),” says Mayor, Blaine Hyggen. “It is an opportunity to celebrate how hard these folks are working and the difference they’re making in our community, for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents.”
Eight community members and organizations were recognized for their efforts in helping set their community on a meaningful path to Reconciliation. Award recipients’ efforts showed dedicated support to partnership building between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people and groups, leading to a more equitable, inclusive society.
Young Adult award recipient, Kellita Day Chief, was recognized for her leadership and taking initiative in role modelling values that support Reconciliation in her community.
“I have always believed that volunteering in your own community from a young age teaches you many techniques, as well as experiences and opportunities,” says Day Chief. “Being Niisitapii, I have a deep connection to my volunteer work. Volunteering to some may be considered to be free work with no paper reward, but there is a much more valuable and long-lasting reward. The reward of fulfilling your soul, while helping those in your community that are in need. I am committed to connect with people of all backgrounds, bring them together to heal. This is why I create short films surrounding the Niisitapii Way, as well hosting the annual Orange Shirt Skate Jam in recognition of National Truth and Reconciliation Day every year on September 30. For those who are hesitant to volunteer I highly recommend it. You will find it has so much to offer than what meets the eye.”
The event featured the works of many local artists and creatives, including a fashion show featuring four Indigenous designers. Guests also heard from actor, stunt performer and emerging director from the Blood Tribe and Piikani Nation, Leonard Provost.
Reconciliation Lethbridge Advisory Committee Co-Chair, Cyndi Bester, believes the evening showcases the dedication and willingness to create a more inclusive community.
"I am profoundly honoured to be part of this remarkable evening of celebration,” says Bester. “We gather not only to recognize the outstanding individuals and organizations that have dedicated themselves to advancing the cause of reconciliation within our community, but also to reaffirm our commitment to a future built on unity, understanding, and shared respect. These awards serve as a testament to the incredible progress we have made, and they inspire us to continue our collective journey towards a more inclusive and harmonious tomorrow."
The Indigenous Services team at Lethbridge College was recognized with the Kiitsi ‘Nooh’ Piin” Naana” (We See You) award. This award acknowledges and recognizes the hard work and the difference the Indigenous Services team makes to their community and the city.
“This award holds a special place in our hearts as an Indigenous team, because it signifies the acknowledgement of our tireless commitment to share knowledge, raise awareness, and create pathways for others to engage in the essential work of Reconciliation, guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action,” says Lowell Yellowhorn, Indigenous Services manager. “I am proud of the work of our team, but even more so, I’m proud of the entire Lethbridge College community. This recognition reflects the priorities and commitments of the college, to be a leader in reconciliation, and it is a reminder that together, we can bring about positive change and make a lasting impact.”
Community Leader award recipient, Heidi Davis, Inniipoiakii (Buffalo Talking Woman), is an addiction and mental health outreach recreation therapist at Alberta Health Services.
“My life changed 8 years ago when I began working with the elders,” says Davis. “This award is so special to me, since the connections with Blackfoot community is essential in the work we do as an outreach team. I don’t take the love and embrace I have received lightly. I hold every story, every relationship, every ceremony with love and reverence.”
Recipients were each gifted a locally crafted glass trophy from RLAC as a token of their recognition. Dates and deadlines for nominations for the 2024 Reconciliation Awards will be announced in the summer of next year.
Reconciliation award recipients:
Youth award – Rae Marie First Charger
Rae Marie is entering middle school and is an active community member.
She is a multi-sport athlete, participating in boxing, figure skating, skateboarding, running and cycling. Rae Marie takes pride in her traditional ways as a fancy dancer and jingle dress dancer, competing in many powwows. She danced in the opening ceremony of the 2023 Alberta Indigenous Games and won bronze in the age 8-11 open category in skateboarding. She was part of Rock Camp where they formed a band, wrote their own lyrics, and created an original song. Rae Marie played guitar and sang. Participated in 2023 Go Skate Day and Indigenous Peoples Day in Lethbridge.
Young Adult award – Kellita Day Chief
Kellita is a recent high school graduate who has already changed the landscape of her community. Kellita is an Indigenous leader who has provided Indigenous youth programming in sports and recreation and culture. Kellita has gifted her time and energy to Indigenous youth to help keep them off drugs and alcohol. Kellita’s volunteer work includes working with Amazing Kids, SAGE clan, Indigenous Film Makers, Indigenous Leaders and organizing the Indigenous Youth Skateboarding event at the Legacy Park. She has also been part of the Seven Stars work and is a community member of the Boys and Girls Club.
Community Leader award – Heidi Davis
Heidi Davis, Inniipoiakii (Buffalo Talking Woman), is an Addiction and Mental Health Outreach, Recreation Therapist at Alberta Health Services. An amazing ally for Indigenous people, she has worked hard for the promotion of Indigenous Wellness through the arts to help her patients with their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of her patients. Heidi has built significant strengths and trust within the Indigenous community as she works from the sacred aspect.
Heidi is a tremendous asset to AHS and the wider Lethbridge community. Heidi works closely with both the Kainai and Piikani Nations, partnering agencies and community resource partners always pushing to build relationships. Heidi is an exceptional leader and has a passion for furthering reconciliation with Indigenous communities in southern Alberta.
Education award – Duane Piper and Marley Heavyshield
Duane and Marley have spent the last few years developing and growing an initiative called the Blackfoot Word of the Week. What started as a way to acknowledge Indigenous language at Chinook High School has become something that has Facebook followers from around the country, sharing the Blackfoot language far and wide, and thereby creating a safe and welcoming space for the school’s Blackfoot students.
The video series now features notable Canadians from Chris Hadfield, Clara Huges, local, provincial and federal politicians (including the Prime Minister, leaders of the Opposition and our own City Councillors) to the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers, skateboarders and musicians.
Indigenous Leadership award – Blackfoot Elder, Sylvia Fox
Elder Sylvia Fox has offered cultural support throughout the community for decades. Working with people from all backgrounds including those working through drug treatment court, exiting gangs, stabilization centres and more. Her knowledge and kindness are renowned throughout the city, making her a trusted and sought-after leader in our community.
Corporation or Private Sector award – Pratt and Whitney
Pratt & Whitney commenced its Reconciliation journey in 2021 using the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) Calls to Action. Starting with Action 92, Business & Reconciliation, Pratt & Whitney installed a permanent land acknowledgment at their plant in partnership with members of the local Indigenous community. Pratt & Whitney continues to work through the TRC’s Calls to Action and look for opportunities to engage and work with the local community on their Reconciliation journey.
Not-for-Profit Organization award – Interfaith Food Bank
The Interfaith Food Bank has been a hub for the Indigenous community by providing space for connection, healing, learning and supports. Their work the Indigenous Healing Garden, offering cultural teachings with Elders and by bringing people together in their community kitchen, the team at the Interfaith Food Bank continue to show outstanding action and commitment to Reconciliation in our community.
Kiitsi ‘Nooh’ Piin” Naana” (We See You) award - Indigenous Services team, Lethbridge College
Lethbridge College’s Indigenous Services (IS) Team provides more than just guidance and support for students. They are a shining example of how to bring Indigenous knowledge, teachings and culture to an entire community in an engaging way. From the facilitation of one-on-one conversations with elders/grandparents who can regularly be found in the Niitsitapi Gathering Place (a student lounge), organizing moccasin making or ribbon skirt workshops to teaching students and staff how to honour residential school survivors, the IS team’s tireless work makes a difference in the city and beyond.
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