BARRHEAD - A new flag is flying on the pole at in front of the Barrhead Agrena and another will soon fly at Charles Yuill Memorial Park as well.
On May 25, after a two-and-a-half-hour ceremony led by representatives from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation, about 25 people witnessed the raising of the Treaty 6 flag.
Town of Barrhead mayor Dave McKenzie said the ceremony and the raising of the Treaty 6 flag was the culmination of talks with the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation in the fall of 2021.
"I wanted to do something more than the traditional land acknowledgement and have a ceremony to make the community more aware of the longstanding history that we have with our Indigenous peoples, and in particular, with the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation," he said.
In 2015, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission released the Call to Action report, listing 94 recommendations regarding reconciliation between Canadians and Indigenous peoples, including urging all levels of government to repair the harm done by the nation's residential school system.
Since then, it has become common for local governments and school divisions to recite a land acknowledgement stating that the event is taking place on the traditional First Nations lands.
In the Town and Country This Week's readership area, the Aspen View, Northern Gateway and Pembina Hills public school divisions read out acknowledgements before meetings, significant special events and professional development days. More recently, the Town of Westlock began the practice of a land acknowledgement for all council, committee of the whole and tri-council meetings last September.
The County of Barrhead, the Athabasca municipalities, and the Village of Boyle, as of yet, do not have a land acknowledgement statement, although the Town of Athabasca and Village of Clyde are currently in the process of crafting one.
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation heritage and language department director Liz Letendre said she is pleased that McKenzie reached out to the community, saying the two communities have a long history starting when Barrhead was one of the First Nations' larger trading centres.
She also noted that many Alexis Nakota Sioux First Nation families came to Barrhead to help local farmers prepare their fields, helping to clear land and pick rocks.
However, in more recent years, the connection between the First Nation and the town is their mutual love of sports, especially baseball.
"I'm grateful Barrhead has acknowledged our community as one of the First Nations of Treaty 6," Letendre said. "It also makes us feel that we and friendship between our communities and peoples are important."
She added it also gives the First Nations an opportunity to educate Barrhead residents about the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation.
"Not only our history but our ceremonies and connection to life," she said, adding she hoped the flag-raising ceremony was just the first of many similar meetings. "We have so many stories about our people that we can share."