Sable Sweetgrass is helping kick off June’s Indigenous Awareness Month (IAM)
Holy Rock Woman, whose colonial name is Sable Sweetgrass, says identifying as a strong trans Blackfoot woman informs every part of her life in a way that cannot be confined by arcane stereotypes.
“In our culture, it's my language, it's my family, it’s the land we live on, the community I grew up in, the stories I've heard my whole life – the way I see my world is all about being Niitsítapi (Blackfoot) so it means everything to me,” says Sweetgrass, director of Indigenous Engagement and Reconciliation for Calgary Arts Development.
Sweetgrass is helping kick off June’s Indigenous Awareness Month (IAM) by sharing her story, what IAM means to her, and why all Calgarians should take part. Hers, and more like it will be shared weekly, as part of this year’s program. These stories underscore the key learnings in series of events planned over the course of the month.
This year’s theme, ‘I am...” reflects The City of Calgary’s commitment to supporting Indigenous staff, friends, family, colleagues, and partners around the community who are sharing their experiences and culture in an authentic way that’s meaningful to them.
“We’ve heard a lot of people ask, ‘What can I do personally to further reconciliation?’, and we tell them, this is it, this is your chance to both learn about the true history of Indigenous Peoples as also really understand what our Indigenous community looks like today,” says Dr Terry Poucette Leader of the Indigenous Relations Office at The City. “By recognizing the kind of skills, talents and innovation happening across these diverse Indigenous communities and sharing that with your family and a next generation of Calgarians, you are playing a role in celebrating the diversity amid the culture this city was built on and in so doing, building new relationships that will help heal and reconcile the current divide.”
Throughout June, Calgarians will be surprised and delighted by the diverse events that will celebrate both the resilience and fortitude as well as the culture both before settlers arrived and today.
Events open to all Calgarians include an elaborate runway fashion show featuring Indigenous youth designers, a hand games tournament where members of both Council and Administration will try their skills competing in the Indigenous tradition (as played by the Siksika Highschool youth team). Local dancers will also be demonstrating the traditional art of Métis jigging.
Another highlight of the month is the 2023 Indigenous Drag Show. Designed to break down old colonial notions of drag, the show will celebrate two spirit community members and their deep, cultural significance and roots in Indigenous communities. This event is meant offers all Calgarians the opportunity to lend support to the broader 2SLGBTQ+ community and for The City to reaffirm its corporate commitment to truth, reconciliation, equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging.
The City is also partnering with local groups including Aboriginal Awareness Week Calgary, who are hosting the opening ceremonies as well as a family pow wow at Calgary’s Stampede Park.
Sweetgrass hopes the broader community will use the opportunity of Indigenous Awareness Month as a first step to any real understanding and ultimately reconciliation.
“When most people look at the news it can be negative and for me what I see working with Indigenous artists is the high level of creativity and innovation happening at such a rapid speed,” says Sweetgrass. “Especially young Indigenous people – they are moving so rapidly forward in this new age of information and how they see the world around them is evolving. Our youth are leading the way for all Canadians in areas of reconciliation, development, education.”
Alberta is home to the third largest Indigenous population in Canada, covering 3 treaty areas (6,7,8) and over 136k Indigenous Peoples. On the province is home to almost 50 First Nations communities and eight Métis settlements.