Wednesday, October 28, 2020, marked a very special day for Holy Spirit Catholic School Division as Catholic Central High School received a Blackfoot name at a small and personal gathering in the school’s Eggplant Theatre. Led by Kainai Elder Tom Little Bear, the very touching ceremony involved a smudge, face painting and the Blackfoot naming of the building.
From time to time, we learn of when First Nations communities honour individuals with a Blackfoot name, but it is particularly distinctive and rare that such entities as buildings are honoured in the same manner. As a former student in our Catholic school system, Elder Little Bear shared his experience growing up in a very traditional First Nations family on the Kainai Reserve with grandparents who were spiritual leaders in their community. Together with the influence of those within the Lethbridge Catholic School District at the time, Little Bear’s experience was particularly inspiring.
Only the fourth building in the City of Lethbridge to receive a Blackfoot name, Catholic Central was beautifully named, “Taatsikioyis – Centre Tipi”. As I have come to understand the significance of this name, I realize that, to have received it in one of our schools, is of the highest honour. In their culture, Blackfoot people gather annually in the summers on the Kainai Reserve for Aakokaatsin – Circle Camp. Their traditions, relationships with each other and their Creator would be renewed. At Aakokaatsin – Circle Camp, the central tipi is viewed as a very special place of sacredness, learning and relationship. With this special honour now placed upon Catholic Central High School, this institution of learning becomes a beacon – a place where our Blackfoot students can connect with each other and with the entire school community – a place where learning and prayer are interwoven.
I felt so privileged to have been a part of and to witness this powerful and beautiful cultural ceremony; listening to Elder Little Bear’s wisdom about the interconnectedness of our faith and the cultural beliefs and the ways of being and knowing of our Blackfoot people. As a Catholic school division, we continue to be truly blessed by the presence and leadership of the First Nations people in our greater communities. We are indeed grateful for this very special distinction.
A recording of the livestreaming of the event can be found here at this link.