The University of Lethbridge General Faculties Council has approved a unique protocol handbook that will serve as a guideline for University of Lethbridge faculty, staff, students and board and senate members when incorporating Blackfoot and other First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) cultural elements into activities or ceremonies on campus.
Dr. Judith Lapadat, associate vice-president (students), says the handbook will be a living document that she hopes will assist the University community in acknowledging the many ties between the U of L and the Blackfoot community, as well as the other First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) communities that the University serves.
“As part of the work done by Dr. Leroy Little Bear, Roy Weasel Fat and their team, who led us through a process to create our FNMI Centre, what we learned was that the process for acknowledging the roles Kaahsinnooniks (Elders) and other members of the Blackfoot and FNMI communities played in participating in campus activities wasn’t consistent,” says Lapadat. “We also felt that it was important to gather the knowledge about these processes together in one place, and to have them affirmed by members of the U of L community and the FNMI community for the future. An important outcome will be to increase access to Elders for students and other members of the University community.”
Little Bear, a professor of Native American Studies and the FNMI Advisor to the President, says the new FNMI handbook is an example of a continuing exchange for educational purposes.
“I was recently telling my class that one of the most profound ways that humans learn is through exchange with other humans and exchanges of ideas and experiences,” says Little Bear. “Not much learning occurs in a vacuum. The University of Lethbridge has developed and continues to foster these relationships, and I am very pleased to have had a role in developing this resource, which provides a foundation for ongoing exchange that we hope enriches the educational experience at the University of Lethbridge.”
Roy Weasel Fat assisted in his role as Interim Director of the FNMI Centre to ensure that local Elders were involved in the development of the handbook.
“It is important to consult our Kaahsinnooniks (Elders) on such activities, particularly as it relates to protocol,” says Weasel Fat, who has recently been appointed as the President of Red Crow Community College in Standoff, Alta.
Lapadat says the information in the FNMI Handbook was extensively reviewed, and will be made widely available. The protocol guide explains the significance of FNMI traditional activities at events such as convocation, the significance of an eagle feather gift, and also how to properly pronounce a greeting in Blackfoot, among other topics.
“This is a unique way of sharing knowledge, which is very important to members of the Blackfoot community,” says Lapadat. “We are on traditional Blackfoot land, and by acknowledging that, and respecting Blackfoot traditions and protocols, we are demonstrating that we are willing to share, just as Leroy, Roy and many others have shared their knowledge with the U of L community to make this guide possible.”
The protocol guide is available at this website. Additional information about FNMI Initiatives at the U of L can be found in the Report to the President on FNMI Centre. FNMI Services, student activities and resources for current and future students are available here.