Riverside Collegiate raised the Treaty 4 flag over its school for the first time ever during a ceremony attended by students, teachers and the community.
Students from Empire School gathered with students from the high school for the flag-raising on Sept. 16. An Aboriginal drum group performed several honour songs, while a hoop dancer demonstrated the 10 stages of creation based on Aboriginal teachings. The school’s rock band also performed a song called “The Secret Path” written by late Canadian rocker Gord Downie.
Treaty 4 was signed on Sept. 15, 1874, between Aboriginal chiefs and the Canadian Crown.
Raising the flag is an important step in recognizing the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, said elder Gerry Stonechild. The treaty is a document that is expected to be around for many years. The treaty flag, meanwhile, is distinctive and easily identifiable while it honours the past and future.
“It is a symbol of unity. It represents all persons of Treaty 4 without distinctions of race, belief or opinions,” he continued.
Aboriginal youths will find inspiration under the flag and passion to live in Treaty 4 territory, he continued. By raising the flag, this starts the rebuilding of the treaty relationship and acknowledges its importance among all people. It also highlights the message of community and sharing with everyone.
“It is not just a concept of putting up the flag; we are remembering the meaning of the flag,” Stonechild said, adding the flag’s message is clear: all people are welcome here.
Kelly Grass, organizer of the school’s Treaty 4 group and school teacher, was event MC and participated in the drum group. He explained that he had a Treaty 4 flag donated to him, so he thought it was important to raise it in the spirit of reconciliation. He had flag poles ordered last year and installed on the school’s roof so several flags could fly.
“Hopefully (the students) get the message that we are all treaty people and that we’re all one and we’re all in this together,” Grass said. “I’m hoping we can get a little bit more compassion from our students across the cultures … .”
Grass appreciated having good weather and the positive turnout of students, staff and school division employees. The truth and reconciliation process is why he started the Treaty 4 group, he added. He pointed out the group is also for students who are not Aboriginal. By knowing traditional Aboriginal culture and traditions, he thought it could lead to tolerance among peoples and traditions.
The Treaty 4 group at Riverview Collegiate has existed for three years.