REGINA — Flags are symbols that tell something to all who look at them — representing a country, a person, an idea — and while they snap in the wind atop a pole, most didn’t get there by someone simply attaching them to a rope and running them up to the top. There is a protocol that is followed in raising them and a protocol in how they are arranged, if there is more than one flag. Such was the case on June 26 when the Treaty Four flag was raised in front of the newly opened Sacred Heart Community School.
The ceremony began at 9 a.m. with a pipe ceremony followed by several guest speakers who described the symbolism of the flag and the meaning of the symbols contained in the flag’s design.
Elder Dennis Omeasoo, an ambassador for Treaty Six, said the old ways are gone but the philosophies of that time remain. “It was based on spirituality and it had a military society.” The Union Jack was the flag that was given to them but eventually replaced with the Treaty Four flag that represents peace and making treaty, said Omeasoo.
It was a cool and windy day as the flag was raised to its proper place among the flag poles in front of Sacred Heart School. Students sat in the paved parking lot during the ceremony and adult guests sat on chairs facing the children, with the flag poles between.
The ceremony was part of the Catholic school board’s steps to honour some of the 94 calls to action contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. “It’s taking another step toward learning what happened to the indigenous people of this land and reconciling with our indigenous and non-indigenous people, building strong relationships,” said Joanna Landry, the school board’s co-ordinator for Indian and Métis Education.
The Treaty Four flag was designed by the late FSIN Senator Gordon Oakes. A description of the flag contained in the program said the elements represented the promises made to the people of Treaty Four — for as long as the sun shines, the water flows and the grass grows. Sunbeams, water and grass are obvious in the flag, along with a buffalo head that represents the relationship and the respect the people had with the buffalo. Three corners of the flag contain the words “Treaty 4” and the fourth corner has the date the treaty was signed, 1874. Treaty Four is also known as the Qu’Appelle Treaty as it was signed near Fort Qu’Appelle in the Qu’Appelle Valley.
Treaty Four takes in most of southern Saskatchewan and parts of western Manitoba and southeastern Alberta.