The owners of City Centre Mall paid tribute to the Thompson area’s past and expressed hope for a more collaborative future Oct. 14 with the raising of the Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN) flag and the unveiling of a monument acknowledging that it is on the First Nation’s traditional territory.
“This is a very commemorative and special moment for all of us to raise the NCN flag and the MKO flag on City Centre property,” said John Adriessenans of City Centre Mall, after the Nisichawayasihk and Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak flags were raised alongside the Manitoba and Canadian flags.
Seeing his First Nation’s symbol at the mall was heartwarming, said NCN councillor Willie Moore.
“They’re recognizing and respecting the territory of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation,” he said. “It all starts with talking, sharing but also recognizing that we have a dark past. We can have a stronger future if we collaborate and work together in a meaningful way.”
Discussions about recognizing NCN began almost two years ago, said MKO Grand Chief Garrison Settee.
“Before Europeans even conceived or thought about coming to this side the Nisichawayasihk people traversed the land and waters of this territory,” he said. “They have allowed us to reside and to share the wealth of this very beautiful territory. We must never forget whose land we are one. This has always been their home and this will always be their home. For the first time in this mall in its 50 year history, a flag has been raised in their honour to identify their nation. It is so healing to see that. This is reconciliation in action.”
Strathallen, the company that owns the mall, has also partnered with MKO to open 26 Feathers, a store where Don Johnson Jewellers used to be that sells products made by citizens of MKO’s 26 First Nations with all proceeds going to the makers.
“By having a store like this that has an offering like that, we better understand things, we really cater better to the community overall,” said Strahallen executive vice-president of asset management Don Burton. “This is an amazing opportunity for us to have 26 Feathers open up, guaranteed that it’s going to be the most popular store here over the next little while and certainly something that will continue to grow.”
Mayor Collen Smook said First Nations and other residents of Northern Manitoba need to work together for the region to thrive and that efforts to cooperate are paying off.
“When I look back at where we’ve come from and just even the last 10 years, just the difference in the attitudes in Thompson,” she said. “The truths are coming out and now we’re able to do reconciliation. We’re all together in this as partners.”
Strathallen and Walmart also signified their desire for good relations with the First Nations many of their customers hail from with donations of $5,000 and $2,400 respectively, to MKO.