Indigenous Peoples Day draws a crowd to learn and share
The flags of Wolastoqiyik, Peskotomuhkati and Mi'kmaq were raised at the New Brunswick legislature Monday afternoon marking Indigenous Peoples Day.
"That flag should be flying every single day, 365 days a year, because we are the First Nation people of this land and territory. So out of respect, the flag should be flown every single day here," said St. Mary's First Nation Chief Allan Polchies.
Flying the flags is a sign of allyship, said Polchies -- the theme of Indigenous Peoples Day.
More than 200 people gathered on the lawn of the Legislature to observe the day -- taking in songs and speeches and learning about Indigenous organizations and programming.
Polchies said the day is an opportunity to mend the relationship between the provincial government and the First Nations in the province and that responsibility goes beyond government.
"You become better allies by joining forces with the Indigenous peoples, sitting at the tables, collaborating with them, including them in the conversations," he said.
"We have many conversations to be had in this province, we're championing the Wolastoqiyik, we're championing the tax agreement, we're championing justice for those fallen brothers and sisters, Chantel Moore, Rodney Levi and others in this province"
Aboriginal Affairs Minister Arlene Dunn said she would advocate to have the flags fly more regularly.
Dunn said the government is making efforts to heal its relationship with Indigenous peoples, which has been strained in the past year.
The provincial government pulled out of its gas-tax sharing agreements with First Nations, and Indigenous leaders have criticized the government's plan to address systemic racism in the province.
"We've had challenges with the last couple of years, I would say," said Dunn. "But there's been opportunities for this government as well as Indigenous folks to mourn together in light of recent events. So I think this is an opportunity for us to rebuild our relationship and build upon that relationship."
Dunn said meeting with community leaders more often and open communication is a start.
"We have had our challenges, there's no doubt about it," she said. "But I think there's lots of common ground that we can work on together. And that common ground is actually going to be the thing that's going to build our relationship."
Polchies said it's just a start.
"We're all treaty people. We share all these lands together. And when we collectively walk hand in hand together as allies, we can do a lot of great things for our people and for the next seven generations."