In support of reconciliation, a project has been launched by SouthGrow Regional Initiative to support companies, municipalities, and small business across southern Alberta add Blackfoot translations to their signage.
With $40,000 in grants to give away, SouthGrow is accepting applications. For successful recipients, 80 per cent of the cost of the sign will be covered by the grant. Peter Casurella, Executive Director of the SouthGrow Regional Initiative, says the application process is simple and can be completed online.
SouthGrow Regional Initiative is a regional economic development alliance that works in partnership with other bodies to boost economic growth though projects such as this. With participation from organizations such as Tourism Lethbridge, Community Futures Lethbridge, and with the support of the Blood Tribe and Blackfoot Confederacy, the pilot project was launched in a few short months and is now ready to accept grant applications.
Casurella says the idea came from a newspaper article he found in a museum in Raymond. Published in the 1950s, the article discussed the original Blackfoot names for nearby sites, a concept that at the time of the article’s publication might not have been as widely acknowledged as it is today.
“It got us thinking, wouldn’t it be cool if we had Blackfoot language signage for our municipalities, for different locations, for businesses, and could showcase the fact that here in southern Alberta, our history is rich, and deep, and spans tens of thousands of years.”
In addition to recognizing the history of the land, Casurella says he hopes the signs will invite people to explore the area, including sites like Head Smashed-In-Buffalo Jump and Writing on Stone National Park.
For businesses and landmarks that don’t have an existing Blackfoot name, Arnold Fox, Director of Blood Tribe Social Development, and the Aitsi’poyiiksi committee, the Kainai Nation committee for language preservation, are involved to help with proper naming using the linguistic conventions of Blackfoot.
Though it might seem unusual for an economic development organization to be involved with reconciliation, Casurella says inclusion is something that helps the economy and allows for more advancement.
“The Blackfoot people are one of the largest cultural groups in southern Alberta, and they have a lot of young people,” he explains.
“Furthering reconciliation will help with inclusion, which has so many positive economic outcomes. It’s not only the right thing to do morally because of the history of our country, but it’s the right thing to do for the economy, society, and our shared goals of trying to create more opportunities for people.”
As the country moves forward with reconciliation, these signs won’t be just fun facts or tourist destinations, rather they are and will be a sign of progressing times and a move towards embracing a language that has faced extinction and a culture that has helped to make southern Alberta what it is today.
For more information or to apply, visit: https://lethbridgeregion.albertacf.com/the-blackfoot-language-and-southern-alberta/
By Theodora Macleod, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 15, 2023