WEYBURN – A formal recognition of Treaty 4 was made by the City of Weyburn on Monday, with the raising of the Treaty 4 flag by City Hall, alongside the flags of Saskatchewan and Canada.
A large crowd gathered in Memorial Park to watch as Chief Connie Big Eagle of Ocean Man First Nation and Mayor Marcel Roy together raised the Treaty 4 flag, while ceremony committee members Laura Morrissette and Regan Lanning raised the flags for Saskatchewan and Canada at the same time.
“This is really a momentous occasion for the City of Weyburn,” said Mayor Marcel Roy, who noted that at the treaty signing in 1874 there were 21 medals given on that day.
“I’ve come to learn the spirit and intent of the treaty relationship was not respected. It’s important now that we build new relationships of mutual respect,” added the mayor. “Seeing all the people gathered here today should motivate us for the work that remains for us. We continue forward to a future of learning and understanding. Our flags fly high along with each other.”
A large contingent was on hand from Ocean Man First Nation, including dancers and the youth drum group from the First Nation’s school, and other members of the band. Two Grade 4 classes from Assiniboia Park school were on hand for the ceremony, along with several local residents, and the fire and police chiefs in dress uniforms.
“We’re here together for a sacred ceremony with respect,” said emcee Doug Loden, a member of the organizing committee. “We’re here together, people of Ocean Man First Nation and people of Weyburn, together in this place at this time.”
He noted the City of Weyburn council extended a welcome to Chief Big Eagle for this ceremony to recognize Treaty 4, and he noted there would be traditions observed that the residents of Weyburn were not familiar with.
“It’s something very important that we need to watch and listen to very carefully, with respect. You’re showing respect by being here today, and I thank you for that,” said Loden to the large gathered crowd. “Let’s listen with respect, and open our hearts, open our ears and open our minds, because respect makes for better relationships.”
Chief Big Eagle said she was happy to see so many people present for the ceremony, and thanked the City of Weyburn for organizing the event.
“It’s a pretty special occasion that the City of Weyburn is recognizing that they’re on Treaty 4 territory, and they’re going to fly our flag,” she said. However long the flag flies, she added, “This is treaty territory year-round. It’s a wonderful start and we appreciate the recognition. I also want to thank the Ocean Man First Nation and the school, all of our youth and school staff, and all the work they do with our children in maintaining our culture, keeping our culture alive.”
Lindsay Littlechief sang two songs for the flag-raising ceremony, including a flag song and a veterans’ song, and the drum group performed an honour song in tribute of the ceremony.
He explained the translation of the flag song is that the Queen has asked for help with the flag, and the veterans’ song is in tribute to First Nations residents who fought for Canada in wartime.
Chief Big Eagle pointed out that the treaties stipulated that First Nations people did not have to fight in war for Canada, but they did so “to protect their land and to protect Canada, so we have to honour them.”
She also noted this week is leading into National Truth and Reconciliation Day, and Orange Shirt Day, on Friday, Sept. 30, which is “about what our people went through in the residential school system. It’s also about bringing more awareness, and it’s about recognition of the first peoples that were here, and it’s about resilience, that we’re still here and we’re still keeping our culture alive with our youth groups and our young dancers. As First Nations people, it’s our obligation and our duty to participate in these events with our non-First Nation relatives, to teach about our culture, and to make you aware of our history, and to be patient with each other as we learn about each other.”
Following the flag-raising ceremony, the group reconvened in the Knox Hall where the youth drum group provided the music and beat for the dancers, who demonstrated some of the traditional dances of the First Nations.
The lunch of bannock and stew was provided by the local chapter of the Metis Nation – Saskatchewan, and the lunch was served by the group and by ladies from the Knox Presbyterian Church.