Staff at Vancouver Island University and the Snuneymuxw First Nation and Métis Nation “raised their hands” and their flags for National Indigenous Peoples Day.
The event, held Friday at VIU’s Nanaimo campus, included presentations of the flags to Ralph Nilson, VIU president and vice-chancellor, by Emmy Manson, Snuneymuxw councillor; Douglas White III, Snuneymuxw councillor and director of VIU’s Centre for Pre-Confederation Treaties and Reconciliation; Snuneymuxw councillor Doug White II; Joyce White; Tim Low, vice-president, Mid Island Métis Nation; and Mike Calvert, English professor and chairman of the Aboriginal University Bridging Program.
Nilson expressed the importance of the ceremony beyond the gesture of raising the flags.
“Thank you for us to be able to, on this campus, have the opportunity to have the flags flown – the Snuneymuxw flag and the flag from the Mid Island Métis – so that we can ensure that it’s a clear recognition and a demonstration to the community of our work together,” Nilson said. “So, thank you, and we all hold our hands up to you for that support.”
Doug White III said the Snuneymuxw First Nation recognized that the invitation to fly his nation’s flag at the campus was not something that was put forward lightly by the university. He also said Canada is at a crucial point in its history and that the education system is a “place of incredible power in terms of shaping what this country is.”
“This is very serious business for us, as a nation,” White said. “I don’t believe our flag flies anywhere else other than in our own community because it’s very sacred to us. It’s an emblem of who we are as a nation and as a people, our ancestors, our history, everything that we are today and everything that we ever will be … and I want everyone to know that we’ve agreed to this because of the important work that happened up here at this university, the important relationship that we have with this university. This place means a lot to us.”
Low reiterated White’s sentiments about the importance of the flags to the Métis and Snuneymuxw peoples and of the education system.
“It’s a sad history that we’ve got in this country, but by working together and getting to know each other and loving each other … we have a much better opportunity to understand each other and to not hurt each other and to move our peoples forward as a community, a community of all peoples,” Low said.
The flags will fly permanently at the campus’ Royal Bank Plaza.