Saturday, December 10, 2022

University team of liaisons for Blackfoot communities gets Indigenous name

The University of Lethbridge’s (UofL) EleV Navigator Team was given the Blackfoot name Iiksitawapa Akakatsiyiwa (Going All Out Society). A naming ceremony was held on May 10, where Elder Francis First Charger bestowed the name.

The EleV Navigator Team was established in late 2019 and is a partnership between the Blackfoot Confederacy, the UofL and the Mastercard Foundation. It was created to build educational opportunities for Indigenous youth and bolster support to ensure their success, according to the university.

First Charger and fellow Blackfoot Elder Cathy Hunt advised for the team to get a Blackfoot name as an honour to welcome them into their roles as community liaisons and recognize the work they will do in the communities of Kainai, Piikani and Siksika.

“When we talked with them, I could see they have a lot of enthusiasm, their hearts are in the right place, and they are a very diverse group,” First Charger said. “Now that the six of them are working together they are like a family. The name is hard to translate but when I look at this group, I see they have a lot of fire in them and I see them going all out.”

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The University of Lethbridge’s EleV Navigator Team was bestowed the name Iiksitawapa Akakatsiyiwa (Going All Out Society) on May 10. (Photo by Tyler Hay/My Lethbridge Now)

Shanda Webber, UofL manager of strategic Indigenous learning initiatives, said the ceremony carries great significance in Blackfoot culture.

“Receiving a Blackfoot name is a great honour, and also bears a great responsibility,” she said. “Every name has a meaning. Every name has a story. And once bestowed that name, it is now the individual or group who carry that name to hold true to the meaning and story of the name. I know the navigator team will hold our new name in high regard and honour our role in community.”

The team consists of six dedicated navigators, of which one education and one employment navigator is dedicated to each of the respective Blackfoot Communities of Kainai, Piikani, and Siksika. The primary focus of the EleV Navigator Team is to enhance opportunities for authentic relationship building and provide in-community supportive services and communication to guide Indigenous learners along their education and career pathways.

“Grounded in our Indigenous teachings and ways of knowing, our navigator team understands that everyone in the community plays an important role in assisting youth to navigate their way to post-secondary and beyond,” Webber said. “Navigators are the community liaisons, the advisors and co-creators who will be working with the community to make sure their voices and priorities are heard.”

The Tuesday naming ceremony featured an offer of prayers with pipe, followed by the giving of the Blackfoot name, a praise song from the University’s special advisor to the President, Dr. Leroy Little Bear, and a celebratory feast.

The navigator team will begin its work in the Blackfoot communities through a series of meet-and-greet sessions beginning next week and continuing into June.

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