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Indigenous Awareness Day promotes understanding and acceptance

Indigenous culture was on full display at the Lakeland College Lloydminster Campus. Indigenous Awareness Day brought in several different aspects of Indigenous culture to help create more of a better understanding of the different First Nations in the surrounding area.

“It’s important to encourage people to work, play and learn together because we all coexist and that’s how we’re going to get greater things done if we work as a team,” Manager of Indigenous Support Services Shelly Pewapsconias says.

The event was organized by the college’s Indigenous Support Services and the Indigenous Student Committee. The event showcased a mini-round dance, mini-powwow, Métis jigging and hoop dancers as well as art and beadwork made by local entrepreneurs.

“[We are] showcasing the diverse culture of Indigenous people through teachings, songs and dance as well as letting the people in Lloydminster and area if they are not aware of the culture, let us teach about the culture.”

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This is the committee’s third year organizing the event and this year they have condensed it from a week to a day.

While not brought in for the event, Amazing Race winners Dr. James Makokis and Anthony Johnson were in attendance. The two have come to the school to talk about the challenges Indigenous and LGBTQ students face during their studies. 

Johnson says events such as Indigenous Awareness Day are a first step and “handshake” towards furthering reconciliation.

“It’s important to have conversations, visibility and awareness and ultimately what I think we need to be doing is to be in each others lives and seeking to find consensus on what our perspectives are and what is important to us.”

Makokis hopes it will open a conservation for more people to understand treaty land and rights.

“Indigenous people understand from our oral teachings and perspective and that needs to be explored by all people. If we were able to do that in a more open and loving way then we would all understand each other and all the differences we have or seem to have would be resolved.”

The two also spoke to LGBTQ students about their experiences as an Indigenous LGBTQ couple. They say during their travels, going to different viewing parties across the province, rural communities are more open than they should expect.

“As a gay Indigenous person who’s married to another man in rural Alberta, [to see] a whole gym was filled with people cheering for us shows the openness of communities when they see other people and can connect with them and not just view them as an other,” Makokis says.

Both Makokis and Johnson will be speaking at the Vermilion campus and another Indigenous Awareness Day is scheduled at that campus on March 20.

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