Flags are symbols of reconciliation – Winnipeg Free Press


Opinion

The Treaty 1 and Métis flags were first raised October 17 in front of Wesley Hall and will continue to fly on the University of Winnipeg campus landmark.

Local band Sons of the Drum, joined by Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew, banged on the large skin drum, creating a heartbeat for the moment, and sang the flag-raising song.

The afternoon began with opening words and a prayer from Elder Charlie Robinson of Roseau River Anishinaabe First Nation. From a wheelchair, holding an eagle feather fan, he spoke thoughtfully of supporting each other in rebuilding our families. He shared the knowledge of the signing of Treaty 1 in 1871, then said a prayer.

There was a chill in the air, even though this special, long-awaited moment was anything but cold.

A small crowd of university staff and students, as well as Native and Métis dignitaries gathered in front of the poles, awaiting the moment when the two banners would fly for the first time.

The Treaty 1 flag represents the seven Treaty 1 communities: Brokenhead Ojibway First Nation, Long Plain, Peguis (formerly St. Peter’s), Roseau River, Sagkeeng (formerly Fort Alexander), Sandy Bay (1876 adhesion); and Swan Lake (1876 accession).

It was designed in 2020. Green on the flag represents grass, blue represents rivers. The red circle around the sun in the center represents the people, with the seven rays or teepees surrounding the sun signifying the seven First Nations.

The Métis flag features a white infinity symbol on a blue background. The symbol has two meanings: it represents the union of European and First Nations cultures to create a unique and distinct culture — the Métis — and the existence of a people forever.

“Before I begin, I would just like to point out that years ago, some staff at the University of Winnipeg dreamed of the day when they would see the Métis flag flying on campus. Likewise for the Treaty 1 flag,” said President and Vice-Chancellor Angeline Nelson, noting that raising the flags was a months-long journey.

The University of Winnipeg has one of the highest participation rates for First Nations, Métis and Inuit students in Canada, with 11% of the student body identifying as Indigenous.

One by one, dignitaries representing the university, Treaty 1 and the Manitoba Metis Federation exchanged words to commemorate this historic moment.

“Each of us has an important responsibility for reconciliation,” said Jan Stewart, Deputy Provost and Associate Vice Provost Academic.

“At the University of Winnipeg, we continually work to ensure that Indigenous knowledge and perspectives are integrated into what we do and those who are affected, and how we serve.

Some examples of this, she said, include creating opportunities and pathways for Indigenous students, as well as offering Indigenous learning and language courses and programs, integrating teachings, Indigenous approaches and worldviews in university curricula and culture.

Brokenhead Chief Gordon Bluesky (Chair of Treaty One Nation) praised the moment as a big step towards reconciliation, citing the growth and continued interconnection of First Nations peoples with the land and economy. . He asked the university and other post-secondary institutions to develop a curriculum focusing on urban and First Nations development.

“The work we do at Kapyong Barracks to the work done by the Peguis First Nation in 1075 (Portage Ave.), the work that Long Plain First Nation has done in terms of urban reserves and urban economic development areas for First Nations people, aims to better understand that this type of work needs to be incorporated into the program. current.

Andrew Carrier, vice-president of MMF, said the name Métis comes from Latin, which means half-breed. He said there are a lot of people who really don’t understand who the Metis are.

“We are hiding in plain sight here – we are here and we have our own culture, our own language, our own traditions,” he said.

“It’s really important to recognize that this is our homeland. For generations and decades we have fought for equality and to be heard, and this is a great opportunity to finally be recognized as part of the heart of Manitoba, Winnipeg.

It was a beautiful celebration and a significant step towards reconciliation.

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Twitter @ShelleyA Cook

Shelly Cook

Shelly Cook
Columnist, Reader Bridge Project Manager

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud Indigenous woman with family ties to the Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

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