What’s the big idea? With Roy Weasel Fat

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My tenure here at Red Crow was the right place for me as far as education is concerned. For us here, we are teaching our younger generation about their culture. A lot of them don’t really know about the culture – even the language – and that’s a critical area. At the foundation, we want our kids to know who they are, to be self-confident and not underestimate themselves.

One of our main advantages as a First Nations college is that we have direct access to our community Elders and the traditional way of knowledge. We have had an Elders Advisory Council for more than two decades. They help our students connect with their culture and with our Blackfoot ways of living and being, how we come together as a Blackfoot community, how to continue the practices of teaching this culture to our community. Elders are very important to our community. They can help members of our community think more about their Blackfoot identity.

Some of the questions our Elders ask our younger people as they start their journey of learning about their culture are: “Do you have a Blackfoot name? Who gave you that name? If you don’t have one, do you want one?” If so, the Elders will go about getting the student a Blackfoot name, because that’s part of the self-identity. They also ask “What clan are you from?” There are about 17 clans and it is another way students can connect to their community and history.

What we do here at Red Crow Community College is make it so anyone can come and learn about Blackfoot ways if they choose to come here. Once people return back into the culture it has a transformative effect. People change once they know. And for me, success is when a member of our community experiences success in education and in life. It is my obligation to pass on this knowledge of success to our students and other members of the community, so that they may enjoy the benefits of a post-secondary education and lead a better life – so they may benefit from the “new buffalo” as our ancestors benefitted from the buffalo. That’s what I want for our students.

Roy M. Weasel Fat is the president of Mikai’sto/Red Crow Community College and a 1974 graduate of Lethbridge College’s Vocational Agriculture program. As a leader, he has demonstrated vision and innovation, and he is responsible for the infusion of Blackfoot culture and values in every sector and level of education, including adult literacy, adult upgrading, trades, health and general studies, at the Standoff college.

Red Crow Community College was established in 1986 as a First Nations educational institute and initially offered upgrading and college prep courses. In the late 1990s, the college formed the Kainai Studies Department, which incorporated uniquely-designed courses built upon Blackfoot and Kainai worldviews. In its 31-year span, the college has evolved into a complete post-secondary institution offering diploma and degree programs in partnerships with many post-secondary institutions, including Lethbridge College.

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