The OKI sign displayed in the foyer at Lethbridge City Hall. Last year City Council adopted the traditional Blackfoot word for "Hello" as the official greeting of the City of Lethbridge. Photo credit to MyLethbridgeNow.com (Pat Siedlecki)
Lethbridge City Council has decided to move discussion about a future Indigenous Cultural Centre to next year’s budget deliberations.
The final report on the proposed facility was brought to Council on Monday (Feb. 10). Councillors voted to move the proposed project into Capital Improvement Program (CIP) deliberations next year.
The City’s Indigenous Relations Advisor, Perry Stein says building a centre like this is important for a number of reasons. “This has been Blackfoot territory for thousands of years. Lethbridge is also home to an urban Indigenous community of upwards of 10,000 people. There are several hundred Indigenous students who go to school here every day. There are hundreds of people who flow between Lethbridge and Standoff and/or Brocket for work every day. Lethbridge is an Indigenous community”.
Stein says an Indigenous Cultural Centre could cost anywhere from $5 million to $20 million all depending on the scope of the project.
He stresses this would not be just for Indigenous peoples, it would be to build bridges as part of reconciliation.
“This is not a cultural centre for a specific demographic of people,” says Stein. “This is a cultural centre for 100,000 plus people in the city, but also in the region. There are very few Indigenous cultural centres anywhere in Canada and even fewer in Alberta. This in an opportunity to create linkages between the city and places like Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Writing-On-Stone, and Blackfoot Crossing”.
The feasibility study and final report presented to Council Monday indicates 6,600 square feet is estimated to be needed as the minimum, possibly expanding to 19,000 sq. ft and eventually growing to 26,000 sq. ft in the future if needed.
As for a location, the report says a site would have to reflect a connection to nature, views of the River Valley, a space for ceremony and gathering, and be an accessible spot.
Stein says coming up with a proper governance model for a facility like this is very important. The report points to either city-owned, Indigenous-owned, or a hybrid model that includes both.
Stein though says those are all things which can be worked on with stakeholders so that when Council is deliberating this project during the 2021 CIP, it will be able to have some robust governance structures to work with.