The Snuneymuxw First Nation flag is flying above Nanaimo City Hall again.
A flag-raising ceremony happened Thursday morning with speeches from City of Nanaimo and Snuneymuxw leaders.
The flag was first raised at city hall on National Aboriginal Day in 2015, but was taken down in 2017 after a unanimous resolution from Snuneymuxw band council. The First Nation at the time asked Nanaimo Mayor Bill McKay to rescind a statement relating to “violence experienced by Tracy Samra in the attack against her by city councillor Wendy Pratt,” and asked the mayor and council to denounce violence against First Nations women.
During his speech, Michael Wyse, Snuneymuxw First Nation Chief, described Thursday’s event as a positive change to the First Nation’s working relationship with the city, which follows a 166-year-long history of land being taken from the Snuneymuxw in spite of treaty guarantees established in 1854.
“This may seem like a distant past and irrelevant today, but it speaks to the very basis of our relationship with Canada, British Columbia and the municipality of Nanaimo … Snuneymuxw is working hard to change the story of history with Canada, British Columbia and Nanaimo to recognize and respect the Snuneymuxw people and our way of life,” said Wyse. “While we’ve had working relationships with the City of Nanaimo in the last couple of decades and, in the most recent years, action was taken to remove the Snuneymuxw flag from city hall. This signalled a challenging time between us and the people of Nanaimo and a time when communication, purpose and recognition of Snuneymuxw people was not at the forefront of all the work that was underway at the time.”
Last spring, Nanaimo mayor and council and Snuneymuxw band council signed a renewed protocol agreement aimed at strengthening their government-to-government relationship as part of a continued effort to advance reconciliation. At the time, Wyse said working toward re-raising the First Nation’s flag at Nanaimo City Hall was “the next order of business.”
Wyse said during the last two years, Snuneymuxw chief and council and Nanaimo mayor and council paused to reflect and to talk about the challenges they have encountered and how they could change the way they engage and work together for the betterment of everyone in the region, present and future. Renewing the relationship between Snuneymuxw and Nanaimo councils is a meaningful commitment to respect one another and to work together so everyone can live harmoniously and prosper in the region.
“There is no doubt that there is much work ahead of us and that there may come a time when we are challenged. Respect, recognition and communication will surely enter discussion to determine how to proceed,” Wyse said.
In his address, Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog recognized the history and effects of colonization, but expressed hope for the future relationship between Snuneymuxw First Nation and Nanaimo.
“I am confident that the wonderful words of Chief Wyse this morning will come to pass,” Krog said. “That we have every opportunity to effect reconciliation in this community that will set an example for everyone in British Columbia, if not this country.”