'We have a lot of work ahead of us': Flag raised for Indigenous History Month

The city will soon debate an urban Indigenous strategy two years in the making. But in the meantime, it had a flag-raising ceremony.

The city will soon debate an urban Indigenous strategy 2 years in the making

Jacob Hill and Nathan Muir from Six Nations of the Grand River, along with Hadahawis Parent, performed during the ceremony as Otsihsto Kowa, their traditional music group. Otsihsto Kowa is a Mohawk phrase that loosely translates into "a great ball of light," or "superstars." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The eyes of Hamilton's Indigenous community will be on city hall next month when councillors debate a new strategy to serve urban Indigenous residents.

The city has been working on a strategy for about two years, and it was a topic of conversation at a city hall flag raising for National Indigenous History Month Thursday. Hamilton just hired a new lead for the project, and the strategy will come to city council's emergency and community services committee June 20.

So far, Hamilton is doing "a fine job" improving its relationship with the Indigenous community, said Cindy Sue Montana McCormack, a social planner with the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton. But the strategy will be "an important piece."

The flag raising, she said, shows "that the City of Hamilton is trying to achieve some goals. And we're watching them."

About 50 people gathered for the ceremony in the city hall forecourt Thursday. Flags were raised representing First Nations, Métis and Inuit people. The city's Aboriginal advisory committee organized it.

Hadahawis Parent, 23, said remembering Indigenous history is the "truth" part of Truth and Reconciliation.

About 50 people attended the flag-raising for National Indigenous History Month. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Governments are getting better at building relationships with First Nations, Parent said. But it's not happening fast enough. He cited the lack of clean, accessible drinking water in First Nations communities as an area that needs improvement.

"They are doing better, but better doesn't mean good," he said. "We have a lot of work ahead of us."

The city has hired Shelly Hill to replace Shylo Elmayan as the new head of the urban Indigenous strategy. Elmayan left the position to become the new director of McMaster University's Indigenous Student Services Centre.

A woman standing.
The flag raising, says Pat Mandy, is "a symbol of nationhood." Mandy was there representing Stacey Laforme, chief of Mississaugas of the Credit. She's also chair of the De dwa de dehs nyes Aboriginal Heath Centre and a member of the Hamilton Police Services board. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Hadahawis Parent, Jacob Hill and Nathan Muir perform as Otsihsto Kowa. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Nicole Jones, program manager of the Indigenous initiative, says the urban Indigenous strategy will come to city council's emergency and community services committee on June 20. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Marilyn Wright, member of the city's Aboriginal advisory committee, shares a laugh with Pat Mandy, who was there representing Mississaugas of the Credit. "We're going to take a firmer stand," Wright says, "and tell the city in a respectful way that it needs to make our community members feel respected." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Nrinder Nann, Ward 3 councillor, brought her daughter to the flag raising. Attending Indigenous events, she says, "reconnects me to my profound reality, which is as a human being on this planet." (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Monique LaVallee was there as president of the Hamilton Executive Directors' Aboriginal Coalition. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca