Lethbridge school receives Blackfoot name

St. Francis Junior High School now has a second title.

The name Naatowapoomahpis, which means “our sacred home” in Blackfoot, was given to the Lethbridge school by former student and elder Tom Little Bear at a ceremony on Wednesday.

“Naatowapoomahpis can be translated to mean our home or our campsite,” Little Bear said. “That’s where I got the name, as St. Francis is the home for many students.

“I came to school (at St. Francis) as a youngster in Grade 8 and 9. I’m very honoured. I never expected to be sitting in front of all the students, giving St. Francis its first — and I hope it’s only — Blackfoot name.”

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A ceremony preceded the naming and included a smudge, honour song and face-painting of some staff members, including school principal Devon Dempsey.

“The honour that I feel right now, and the pride that I feel for our St. Francis community, is beyond belief,” Dempsey said.

“Having a Blackfoot name is something that is so honourable, but having the one that we were given is even more important.

“We are a family here at St. Francis. This is home to 525 students who every single day come to us,” Dempsey added.

“We grow and learn together… so for this to be their sacred home and named their sacred home is beyond words.”

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St. Francis is the second school within the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division to receive a Blackfoot name. In 2020, Catholic Central High School (CCHS) was given the name Taatsikioyis, which means centre tipi.

Little Bear also bestowed that name on CCHS.

“Our culture is starting to be recognized — our language and way of life,” Little Bear said.

Administration is already speaking to printers about displaying St. Francis’ new Blackfoot name at the school.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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