Campus Life

Mahon earns Kainai Chieftainship

Building on a tradition of understanding, friendship and cooperation, University of Lethbridge President and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Mike Mahon was inducted into the Kainai Chieftainship on Saturday, July 21.

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President Mike Mahon being introduced before the induction ceremony. Photos by Glenn Miller

Mahon joins a distinguished group of individuals who have been recognized by the members of the Blood Tribe as advocates for the people of the Blood Tribe and for all First Nations' people. There are just 40 living members of the Chieftainship, including former U of L presidents Dr. Howard Tennant (Young Eagle, 1991) and Dr. Bill Cade (Calf Shirt, 2006).

"Being inducted into the Kainai Chieftainship, particularly as one of 40 living members, is a humbling experience," says Mahon, who was welcomed by Chief Charles Weaselhead. "Our university resides on traditional Blackfoot territory and has been given the Blackfoot name Medicine Rock. We have had a longstanding commitment to creating an inclusive university for all First Nations', Metis and Inuit (FNMI) peoples. My own experience this past weekend is a further symbol of this cooperative relationship."

Dr. Mahon has his face painted as part of the ceremony.

Mahon was bestowed the Blackfoot name Iipisowahsi or Morning Star, meaning son of the sun and the moon.

"Blackfoot Elder Dr. Pete Standing Alone gave me my name, saying that the sun is the father and the moon is the mother. Therefore, when they are praying, they often refer to the morning star as their brother," says Mahon. "That is very symbolic and reflects the relationship we want to continue to foster with the Blackfoot people."

Mahon was honoured alongside ATCO president and chief executive officer, Nancy Southern (Brave Woman), and John Jurrius, president and chief executive officer of Native American Resource Partners (Rainy Chief).

President Mahon, left, along with fellow inductees and Chief Charles Weaselhead.

Joining the Chieftainship is a very prestigious honour that symbolizes a partnership between cultures and an acceptance into the Blood Tribe. Past inductees into the Kainai Chieftainship include Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Pope John Paul II, former Alberta Premier Ralph Klein, Senator Joyce Fairbairn and former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson.

The U of L is the first university in Western Canada to establish a Native American Studies department degree program, and Mahon recently commissioned a report to further examine FNMI initiatives across the campus and to develop recommendations on a future strategy. That report is available at

Follow this link for a look at our Facebook photo gallery of the induction ceremony.