Here in southern Alberta, we have been very warmly welcomed by people associated with Red Crow Community College, especially Cynthia Chambers (professor of education at Lethbridge University), Narcisse Blood (a Blackfoot elder from Red Crow), Ryan Heavyhead and Duane Mistaken Chief (two lecturers from Red Crow), Ramona Big Head (lecturer in education at Lethbridge University), Nora (the librarian at Red Crow) and Adrienne Heavyhead and Alvine Mountain Horse (both of whom work on Blackfoot ecological knowledge).
Red Crow Community College is a post-secondary college spread over two campuses, one on the Blood Reserve (one of the Blackfoot confederacy bands) the other in the university city of Lethbridge. The college has around 270 students and around 40 staff and teaches a range of courses, such as English, Math, Social Studies, Science and Kainai (Blackfoot Studies) designed to integrate students who have been out of school for a year or more into the university system. What made the college distinct from other colleges we know is the 2-year Kainai (Blood tribe) Studies course they have offered since 2005. In this course students learn the Blackfoot language from Duane, Blackfoot history, geography and religion from Narcisse, and from Ryan they are inducted into how to learn from the land and animals of this region as well as how to use these for traditional foods.
We had many hours of wonderful dialogue, learning from Cynthia, Narcisse, Ryan, Adrienne, Alvine, Ramona and Duane during our 3 week stay. The inspiring effects of the course on a number of students we talked to was clear to see. Many spoke of rediscovering their history, their identity, of reconnecting with their ancestors, with grandparents, their land, and most importantly with a sense of pride and value of a way of life that had been oppressed for many decades.