As long as the sun shines, the rivers flow and the grass grows
A new flag is flying above Moose Jaw.
“Once a Treaty flag is up, it doesn’t come down,” said Kallie Wood, founder of Converging Pathways, the consulting company that organized Friday’s flag-raising event. “It’s there forever, just like the Canadian flag.”
About 75 people turned out for the event at the visitors centre, representing Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups, as well as dignitaries from various levels of government. While raising the Treaty flag itself was historic – Moose Jaw is only the 14 th city in Canada to do so – it was also the platform for the public announcement of a national gathering to be hosted here in April.
Atamiskakewak 2018 is expected to draw 3,000 and 5,000 people to town for a week of education, relationship-building, and reconciliation. Along with sessions on language, culture, health and justice – to name a few – there will also be a competition powwow, lacrosse tournament, and reconstructed “Indian Village.”
“We’re not hosting an event,” said Wood’s partner Chris McKee. “We’re transforming the whole town.”
That metamorphosis began on Friday with another, albeit much smaller, gathering. Dignitaries including Chief Lynn Acoose of Sakimay First Nation, MLA Warren Michelson, and Mayor Fraser Tolmie all spoke, lending their support to the event, the announcement of the national gathering, as well as reconciliation in general.
“I know that all of you are here because you care,” Acoose said, noting that while she has never lived in Moose Jaw, her ancestors used to pass through the area on their way to Cypress Hills and the city has always felt like home to her. “I ask you to carry forward that spirit of reconciliation.”
Tolmie spoke about Moose Jaw’s part to play moving into the future, both as a community and as a part of a wider country, and said that the commitments made there were more than just something to say.
“Treaties are more than words,” he said. “They are calls to unity.”
Elder Noel Starblanket congratulated everyone present on acknowledging this history of the land in his opening speech, followed by a prayer.
“Your people and mine, about 143 years ago, made an agreement to share this land,” he said. “Some of it was not so pretty, but a lot of it was good relationships.”
He said raising the flag and preparing to host Atamiskakewak 2018 are evidence of how Moose Jaw’s residents are seeking to renew and honour that agreement.
“We are all Treaty people,” he said.
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