The Lethbridge College Board of Governors took an important step toward bridging a long-standing cultural divide, by appointing an representative from a previously marginalized group.
Travis Plaited Hair was named the first indigenous BOG member in the past 10 years, according to College records.
“It tells you how far we’ve come in this community, not just for indigenous people but for other groups too. We’re taking the right steps to becoming a real multicultural campus. This appointment is just another example of how Lethbridge College is leading that charge,” said Plaited Hair.
As a member of the board, Plaited Hair will be responsible for working with senior leadership team members to establish goals for the College community and its councils, both long and short term.
“In our culture we are taught to listen to our elders. Just shut up and soak up their experience, their knowledge and their wisdom. They don’t tell us what to do, just advise us on the paths we have in front of us. I hope to bring that sense of advising to the board,” says Plaited Hair.
Kristin Ailsby, board chair of the Lethbridge College Board of Governors, says she is pleased to welcome an indigenous member to the team.
“When we recognized a need for a new board member we realized we were lacking indigenous representation on the board.”
Ailsby continued by speaking directly to the appointment of Plaited Hair.
“Travis’ name automatically came top of mind to everyone because of his pre-existing relationships with the college. His humour is absolutely transformative, he encourages lightheartedness and laughter and that is something we on the board see, on top of his vast skills, as absolutely invaluable,” said Ailsby.
Earlier this year the College BOG gathered with institution’s from around the province, in the Alberta Legislature Building to discuss post-secondary challenges and opportunities.
According to Ailsby, Lethbridge College was the only board with Indigenous representation.
“Having Travis gives us not only insight, but proper political power in the face of the current government,” said Ailsby.
The trailblazing board member says his appointment will allow him to ensure his community is represented in all college matters. “I have an obligation to my people to ensure that whatever the college is doing, our voice is heard. Our community, especially the elders really respect the College for giving us that voice at the table,” said Plaited Hair.
Originally from the Blood Reserve, Plaited Hair has a time-honoured relationship with Lethbridge College. He says he has seen the community moving in a positive direction for quite some time.
“The college has always been a leader in bridging the gap for indigenous students. In general, I’m very proud of Lethbridge as a whole and the college is a big part of that,” said Plaited Hair.
Ailsby says this appointment is just a first step in ensuring the college not only acknowledges their indigenous roots, but builds upon them.
“Indigenization of the campus is a huge push. Rather than just having an indigenous room, let’s intertwine it into the entire campus. It’s about integrating indigenous ideas into every topic,” said Ailsby.
In addition to his newly assigned college role, Plaited Hair is currently executive director of Sik-Ooh-Kotoki Friendship Society and Leader of the Sacred Horns Society of the Blood Reserve.
Throughout his career he has been involved with many groups on issues that directly affect southern Alberta’s Indigenous population.
Plaited Hair previously worked at Lethbridge College as an FNMI Student Advisor from 2011 to 2013.
Plaited hair says he is proud of the college’s continued commitment to being leaders in indigenous education.
“We have a long way to go, but we have come so far from where we were.”