History was made yesterday at the Chinook Education Centre.
There, officials from the Chinook School Division, the Nekaneet First Nation, and Swift Current Metis Local #35, joined together in the flag-raising ceremony, which saw gathered officials from the City and local groups, and children from the division.
Before the flags were raised, speakers took turns talking about their role in the history between First Nations, Metis and the surrounding communities.
The man running the presentation and introducing each speaker was Curtis Biem, curriculum coordinator for the Chinook School Division.
"The initiative is really about doing our part in actions toward truth and reconciliation and forging relationships with First Nation and Metis people," said Biem. "As a school division, we have students in all of our schools who would fall into that demographic. We want to make sure that we're meeting their needs as well so they see themselves in the curriculum in the classroom."
Raising these flags with children presents hopes to achieve a normalization of each party's cultures. For over 100 years now, the southwest part of Saskatchewan has enjoyed each of the three cultures' distinct traits, and shared them with one another freely. Encouraging this history in youth, while recognizing some of the tragedies along the way, encourages a better relationship than ever before going into the future.
This was a sentiment that was present in the presentation Chief Alvin Francis, of the Nekaneet First Nation, carried in his message to the gathered youths.
"The treaties that we read, we inherited it from our ancestors, they were put to the wayside and now we can recognize it," said Francis. "The young people of today and the future generations coming up, they can see were all treaty people. Let's share this place, that was the intent of the treaty, to share all of this land and its resources."
Included as well in this historic event, was the local Metis population. Represented by Tekeyla Friday, vice president of Local #35.
"I am very pleased to be here and to be honoured as Metis person," said Friday. "This is a very good and historical day for us."
Also presenting at the flag raising, and helping to raise the flag alongside students and Chief Francis, was Metis Elder, Cecile Blanke. Her presentation spoke about the historic significance of the flags, and how the Metis flag contained a large portion of that history. She spoke about how settlers came and took indigenous wives, and how the Metis came to be.
As the flags were raised, elders and members of the Nekaneet First Nation sang, danced, and played the drums. Slowly but surely, the flags caught the wind, held aloft in the Saskatchewan breeze. Much like how all of us depend on the land, rivers and sky in Saskatchewan, so to do the flags that represent a commitment to continually educating ourselves depend on the wind to stay waving.
This ceremony featured that commitment not just in a figurative sense, but in the real. Kim Pridmore, board chair for the Chinook School Division, offered up her thoughts on bringing this history and the lessons there within into the classroom.
"That's an ongoing discussion that we have and of course, every division is a little bit different," said Pridmore. "We only have Nekaneet to draw from, but we have continual conversations with their education committee, and we listen to what's important for them, for us to integrate and then we put it to our staff and our staff, of course, are excited to try and build that knowledge within their students as well."
After ceremonies were finished, with a gift giving, a grass dance by the Nekaneet dancers, and a group photo, people were encouraged to partake in the bannock bread inside the building.