Namesake First Nation completes sacred lance run to Saskatoon's new Chief Mistawasis Bridge
Chief says bridge must carry the weight of history
Saskatoon's new Chief Mistawasis Bridge will carry a heavy load.
The bridge, which opened Tuesday, will obviously carry city traffic. But it must also hold up under the weight of its historically significant name and the hopes and dreams of contemporary Indigenous people, according to the chief of the Saskatchewan First Nation that shares its namesake.
It's a healing journey.- Chief Daryl Watson
"We still have a lot of inequities…this bridge basically symbolizes that fact, and that opportunity that we as human being have that responsibility to start working collectively for the betterment of our younger people and children yet to come," said Daryl Watson, chief of the Mistawasis First Nation, said on CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning.
Watson said the bridge represents a chance for all people to put aside negative stereotypes, ignorance and prejudice.
"It doesn't matter the colour of your skin, we all bleed red and we all have the responsibility to unite and come together."
The lance and a prayer for unity
Watson's community did not take its role in Tuesday's ceremonies lightly. A group of young people, accompanied by horsemen, covered some 120 kilometres from their home to the site of the new bridge in a sacred lance run.
"It's a healing journey," Watson explained. "Our flags are basically our lances."
"It's the ability for us to connect with the Creator and have the guidance to ensure that this traffic bridge is a symbol of peace and friendship and a sign of true reconciliation."
Watson said he will never forget the day Saskatoon decided to honour Chief Mistawasis by naming the bridge after him. Mistawasis was a significant leader of the Plains Cree when they signed Treaty 6 in 1876. According to Watson, Chief Mistawasis worried greatly about young people and how they would survive in the time after the buffalo.
"His main concern was education and the fact that things were changing," said Watson.
A bridge to a better future
It's a lot for daily commuters to keep in mind as they cross the new span, but Watson hopes that drivers will pause to think about reconciliation and future shared prosperity. He said his community completed the traditional lance run to the new bridge to promote s vision of unity.
It wasn't a simple gesture, or for show, Watson promised.
"It's all about personal pride and good prayers for family and for community and the individual."
- with files from Saskatoon Morning