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This article was published 2/10/2019 (594 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Reconciliation takes dedicated hard work from people who care about unifying the community — and that message is on display as the city celebrates Indigenous Awareness and Education Week.
That commitment to solidarity with Indigenous Peoples was on display at Brandon City Hall Tuesday afternoon during the Treaty 2 and Métis Infinity flag-raising ceremony.
It was an important day because it acknowledges Indigenous people with not only the raising of the flags and their permanent installation, but as a celebration of two communities coming together, Brandon Urban Aboriginal Peoples’ Council community co-ordinator Jason Gobeil said.
The flag-raising brought together Indigenous and city leaders to share words of understanding on what the path of reconciliation looks like moving forward with the community, he said.
Looking out and seeing the flag "is a true moment of pride," Gobeil said, explaining that as an Indigenous person who grew up in Brandon, this is a statement of action, which reflects a respect for the "94 calls to action" implored for by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"We are not just talking the talk, we are out there connecting our hard work with the hard work that needs to happen within the community. … It’s about moving forward together, and today was one small footstep on that journey."
Manitoba Metis Federation Southwest Region vice-president Leah LaPlante said it was an incredibly meaningful moment to see her flag flying in the city she lives in alongside the Canadian and Treaty 2 flags.
"It changes the whole game," LaPlante said. "It was a very emotional few minutes."
It is the biggest step in reconciliation she has seen so far in regards to the Métis, she said.
"That is huge. That’s a commitment from the city that says ‘we as leaders see the value in showing you that you’re a valuable member of this community.’"
For years, the history of Brandon lacked stories about Indigenous people in the area before the settlers came, she said. That experience is slowly starting to change.
"As an Indigenous person, everyone felt that their story wasn’t important," LaPlante said. "Today changed that — our story is important."
Having the ability to celebrate their culture, feel valuable in the community and feel safe is an experience that many Indigenous people have not felt for generations, she added.
"Hear some of the stories of the Indigenous people and what they have come through," LaPlante said, to find a way to understand the generations of trauma experienced and that role it plays in the social issues some experience today. "There was a lot of trauma and a lot of bad things that happened."
Indigenous Awareness and Education Week is the culmination of years of hard work on the path toward reconciliation, and pushing for recognition of the important place Indigenous and Métis people hold in the community and Canada, LaPlante said.
A week celebrating Indigenous culture was unimaginable when she was a kid, LaPlante said, adding that it would still not be possible in certain areas of the country.
One can already see the changes, LaPlante said, adding that she hopes Indigenous kids no longer feel alone and instead feel valued.
"I just feel good today. I feel like we’re going to turn over a new leaf," LaPlante said. "We’re just fortunate that the mayor has a heart for the people and in making things right."
It was a powerful day, Mayor Rick Chrest said, describing how the flag-raising ceremony brought the community together.
"We’re proud to be occupying land that was Treaty 2 Territory and the original homeland of the Métis Nation," Chrest said.
It has been great to see the activities taking place throughout the week, but also throughout the year, Chrest said, adding that it is amazing to see Indigenous people able to feel comfortable and safe hosting these events in Brandon.
The day symbolically pulled the community closer together and demonstrated that it is a city hall for all people, he said.
"Their flags will fly proudly and permanently at city hall," Chrest said. "I think it’s a fabulous step in our process of reconciliation."
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