Campus Life

ULethbridge senior leaders expand Blackfoot cultural competencies through cross cultural training

As the University of Lethbridge seeks to build cultural awareness on Indigenous Ways of Being, members of the University’s senior leadership team have successfully completed Blackfoot Cross Cultural Ambassador Training, headed by Blackfoot leaders Ira Provost (BA ’14, MA ’20) and Ruth Provost (BA ‘05).

ULethbridge President & Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Mike Mahon, and the senior leadership team embarked on a journey to act upon the truth and reconciliation process and honour the institution’s location on Blackfoot territory by taking part in the training.

“We continue to endeavour at ULethbridge to learn and grow in all we do, and not just as senior leaders, but as an entire campus community,” says Mahon. “It is very important to continue to develop skills, attain new knowledge and understand cultural values that allow us to nurture positive and productive relationships with our entire campus community.”

Leaders developed core competencies in understanding the Blackfoot Confederacy Nations and their history in southern Alberta with sessions on Blackfoot orientation, impacts of the modern age on North American Indigenous life, biocultural community protocols and meaningful relations. Leaders also learned about the social and economic impacts of reserves in Canada, the history of residential schools through shared personal experiences, learning from the land and more. The sessions ended with a tobacco offering ceremony.

“Blackfoot ways of being are inextricably linked to the land,” says Ira. “The training built foundational knowledge and cultural awareness around Blackfoot culture and their connection to the land to increase reconciliation and co-creation opportunities with the Blackfoot Confederacy. We intend this to be a beginning of lifelong learning with Indigenous communities.”

The vision of the Blackfoot Cross Cultural Ambassador Leadership Training is to address truth and reconciliation in a meaningful way.

"Our hopes and dreams with the ambassador training are to instill empathy within, to enhance awareness and understanding of, and to prepare others to correct the wrongs of history and to want to do better together with Indigenous Peoples,” says Ruth.

The unique training was developed through the concept of being within the Provosts’ Blackfoot Badger Lodge tipi, which is a painted tipi design. They hosted Mahon and the senior leaders through their lodge, utilizing their own knowledge, stories, experience and skills. This is a pedagogical approach for meaningful relationships where participants discover there are many other lodges where they can continue their learning journey.

Moving forward, work is underway with the Provosts to further develop and structure the materials from their training to make this content available to ULethbridge staff, faculty and students.

“The ULethbridge senior leadership team is a true beacon embodying truth and reconciliation by bridging cross-cultural relations and bringing Blackfoot inclusivism to the world,” the Provosts conclude.

Ira Provost is the manager of Piikani Nation Consultation and represents the Piikani Nation in external government relations as an intermediary between external proponents, such as industry and government, and the Nation to facilitate relationships in Piikani ancestral land development. Ira is a traditional knowledge holder, keeper of ceremony and has been an Indigenous educator for over three decades.

Ruth Provost is a Blackfoot woman from the Kainai First Nation. Her bio-cultural heritage includes early traditional upbringing, completion of eight piercing Sundances, member of the sacred Horn Society and having her family receive the rare honour of being an Okan family. Their daughter Miracle has put up several Okan Lodges (A'kaokatsin) and serves her Confederacy as a Holy woman and mother. Ruth is a ULethbridge alumna, advocate, researcher, manager, teacher, entrepreneur and successful business owner of the Alberta First Nations Research and Consulting (AFNRC) organization.