By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman For the Lethbridge Herald on June 15, 2021.
The MÃ©tis flag was raised Monday morning at City Hall ahead of Indigenous Awareness Week happening June 21-25.
Mayor Spearman, members of city council and MÃ©tis council members gathered outside of city hall for a short ceremony to raise the MÃ©tis flag. Members of the community also turned out for the event while adhering to health protocols.
Adam Browning, president of the MÃ©tis Nation of Alberta for Lethbridge and area, said that there are thousands of MÃ©tis that live in the Lethbridge area, representing a third of the Indigenous community.
“We’re grateful to partake in the raising of our national flag with you today,” said Browning.
Browning recognized the MÃ©tis Nation flag represents a unique history and identity of the MÃ©tis peoples. He made it clear that they didn’t just come across this flag.
“There’s some historical debate about where we got the flag, but what we know certainly is that it predates the Canadian flag by 150 years. At least 150 years. This is the oldest flag that’s indigenous to Canada. We may not be the oldest Indigenous group, but this is the oldest flag that is indigenous to Canada,” added Browning.
Browning added that the flag represents their identity and their self-governing nation. He emphasized the fact that MÃ©tis people are not part of a treaty, they were never signatories to treaties because they fought until the end in their resistance to make sure they had representation by the Government of Canada.
“So, although we’re not treaty people, our history of coexistence with other Indigenous groups is far older than Confederation. In a sense, we are the first treaty. The joining of two peoples and partnership was the first treaty,” said Browning.
Browning explained that the flag encapsulates their Indigenous rights. But for those in the community leadership, it signifies the responsibility for their people.
“That infinity symbol to us means service, gratitude and serving leadership. The flag is said to have two meanings, the joining of two cultures and the existence of our people forever,” explained Browning.
Mayor Chris Spearman said that the raising of the MÃ©tis flag was very symbolic, as the MÃ©tis contributed so much to our country.
“We can’t forget the contributions. The MÃ©tis were a very big part of what we are in southwest Alberta and what we are in Western Canada. They provided a very special knowledge and they helped build this country in a special way. So, it’s very appropriate that we celebrate the contributions of MÃ©tis people to Western Canada and to the city of Lethbridge today,” said Spearman.
Spearman added that by celebrating these contributions in Lethbridge and elsewhere, we create space for dialogue, for partnership and for reconciliation.
Spearman recognized the MÃ©tis leadership by being the first ones to organize a march in honour of the 215 children’s graves that were found in Kamloops on the site of a former residential school.
“That is leadership. It’s leadership that they have displayed for 300 years or more,” said Spearman.