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County marks inaugural Métis Week

Métis flag now flies alongside Treaty 6
2011 MetisWeek 8987 km
METIS FOREVER – Chief Warrant Officer (retired) John McDonald salutes the Métis flag shortly after raising it at the Sturgeon County Centre Nov. 16 as part of the county's inaugural Métis Week celebration. The flag will now be on permanent display in front of the centre and in council chambers alongside the Treaty 6 flag.

The blue-and-white flag of the Métis Nation will now fly forever outside of Sturgeon County’s central office.

About 23 people were at the Sturgeon County Centre Friday afternoon to raise the Métis flag as the county celebrated its first annual Métis Week.

Métis Week was Nov. 10 to 16 and is a national celebration of Métis heritage. Friday’s flag event marked the anniversary of the death of Métis leader and Manitoba founder Louis Riel, who was executed on Nov. 16, 1885, for his role in leading a resistance movement to Canadian encroachment on Métis lands.

Friday’s celebration included a prayer from Métis elder Myrtle Calahasen and a pre-recorded performance of Proud to be Métis, the Métis national anthem. Métis veteran John McDonald was the one who raised the blue-and-white Métis flag.

“Today we are proud to raise the Métis Nation of Alberta flag with you as a symbol of Sturgeon County’s recognition of the Métis people and their contribution to our culture,” County Mayor Alanna Hnatiw told the crowd.

Hnatiw said in an interview this celebration was an important part of building strong communities and a more inclusive county.

The Métis flag predates Canada, having been first flown by Cuthbert Grant in 1816 at the Battle of Seven Oaks, said Gary Gagnon, vice-president of Region 4 for the Métis Nation of Alberta. The infinity symbol on it is generally thought to symbolize the joining of two cultures (Europeans and First Nations) and how the Métis will exist forever. The flag’s background can be either blue or red, colours the Louis Riel Institute say were historically associated with the North West and Hudson’s Bay fur trading companies, respectively.

Sturgeon County has a long history with the Métis and it’s great to see it recognized, said Calahoo resident Lyle Quintal. His family’s Métis roots started in the 1800s with great-great-great-great grandmother Emily L’Hirondelle up in Lesser Slave Lake, adding that she was the granddaughter of Jasper Haws, the namesake of the town of Jasper. Calahoo at one time was home to a branch of the Métis Nation of Alberta, and still hosts the occasional Métis jigging class.

Coun. Wayne Bokenfohr noted both he and Coun. Neal Comeau were card-carrying members of the Métis Nation of Alberta.

“My mother was a Majeau,” he said, and his family line started close to 200 years ago out of Lac La Nonne.

“This is our roots,” he said, and it’s important for us to remember this history.

Hnatiw said the Métis flag would now have a permanent place on the flagpoles in front of county office and in council chambers alongside the Treaty 6 flags.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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