Lethbridge College launches its Niitsitapi strategy

Lethbridge College alumni Torry Eagle Speaker (left) and student Punky Daniels (right) dance on the coulees at Lethbridge College in October 2020. (Photo Lethbridge College)

by Jacob Cardinal, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter 

(ANNews) – Last week Lethbridge College launched what it calls its Niitsitapi strategy: “Coming together in a Holistic Way.”

The Niitsitapi strategy is a part of Lethbridge College’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation. The term is an all-encompassing Blackfoot term that means real people or all Indigenous people.

The goal is to make sure the college community works together for an inclusive, diverse, engaged and successful education.

“As proud signatories of Colleges and Institutes Canada’s Indigenous Education Protocol, we have committed to making Indigenous education a priority, establishing Indigenous-centred holistic support services and building relationships with our Indigenous communities,” said the college on its website.

“Being a part of this protocol has allowed us to work with and learn from colleagues across Canada, which has been invaluable.”

The Strategy is the first of its kind at Lethbridge College.

It was created with two years of planning and more than 1,800 points of feedback.

Development included internal and external engagement sessions with college employees, a student survey and sessions with external Indigenous community partners.

Shandra Webber, Manager of Indigenous Services at Lethbridge College said, “It’s about being in the moment, slowing down and listening to our elders, our community members, our leaders, everyone in our community just to say: how we can move forward together?”

There are five themes in the strategy: governance and community; Indigenous students; curriculum and pedagogy; collective environment; and research and innovation.

“We are located on traditional Blackfoot Confederacy,” stated Paula Burns, president and CEO of Lethbridge College. “For us that means that we have a responsibility to educate not only our Indigenous students, but that we are educating our community and that we are partnering with the Indigenous community.”

While Burns believes that the College is already doing a lot of what the strategy entails, she says, “For me that speaks to the Indigenous way of learning and being. It’s a circle of learning. It’s ongoing. It’s like the teepee. We pass it onto others.”

Armond Duckchief, a Lethbridge College alumnus and Siksika First Nations council member, said that having the college recognize the land that it’s on is an important first step.

“Having Lethbridge College recognize that as an important factor to help assist the students in wanting to pursue post-secondary education, and making it more welcoming and engaging,” he said.

However, this is not the only Indigenous educational news to come out of Lethbridge this month as the University of Lethbridge’s Indigenous awareness week was held at the beginning of March.

Charlene Bruised Head-Mountain Horse, an Indigenous student adviser at the U of L said, “Each year, we like to ensure that we’re paying recognition to our students.” She also said there are also approximately 500 Indigenous students of various backgrounds studying at the university.

The virtual events began with a 70 person attendance and the week included free events such as alumni roundtable discussions, film screenings, and educational presentations.

“It’s important that we continue to share the information, share the culture,” Bruised Head-Mountain Horse said.

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