Treaty 4 flag raising at Moose Jaw school a 'step to territorial acknowledgement'

Moose Jaw, Sask., high school raised a Treaty 4 Flag as a step towards reconciliation.

Flag raising a response to Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action

Left to right: Dustin Swanson, Gerry Stonechild, Kayleigh Olson and Isabelle Hanson Kenowekesequape were on hand as the Treaty 4 flag was raised at A.E. Peacock Collegiate in Moose Jaw, Sask. (Brad Bellegarde/CBC)

A Moose Jaw, Sask., school has raised the Treaty 4 flag in an effort towards reconciliation.

ceremony to honour the land took place at A.E. Peacock Collegiate on Thursday.

"The Treaty 4 flag raising ceremony ... is a small step to territorial acknowledgement," said Vivian Gauvin, First Nations and Métis consultant for the Prairie South School Division, in an email.

"Most of us here today are settlers and/or newcomers to this territory, so as a settler ... this flag suggests a permanent [acknowledgement]."

Inspired by Gord Downie

Gauvin said the idea to raise the Treaty 4 flag came from A.E. Peacock Collegiate's principal, Dustin Swanson.

He said he had been reflecting on how to connect his school with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action.

"Although we had taken some steps, we hadn't really taken a formal step. It just seemed like a natural thing for us — to take something that's symbolic and, I think, public. So, it's there as a reminder to us," Swanson said. 

Swanson said Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie's Secret Path had a profound impact on him. 

In 1966, Chanie Wenjack died near Kenora, Ont., when he was walking home to the family he was taken from over 600 kilometres away.

Fifty years later, Downie took Wenjack's story and turned it into the Secret Path project, which consists of a solo album, a graphic novel and an animated film.

"I have children and it resonated with me in a deep way," Swanson said. 

Flag raising attracted hundreds

Approximately 500 students from different high schools attended the flag raising event. For Kayleigh Olson, a Gade 10 student at Central Collegiate in Moose Jaw, the flag is a sign of "hope."

Gauvin said Olson has been a big advocate for reconciliation within the division.

Olson has been speaking with high schools about intergenerational trauma from residential school and how as a young First Nations person it has affected her family.

A.E. Peacock Collegiate is the first school to raise the Treaty 4 flag in Moose Jaw. Swanson said he hopes it's not the last.