Flags were raised at Thompson City Hall and the RCMP detachment on National Indigenous Peoples Day June 21 as symbols of organizations working towards a future of partnerships and respect between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
The raising of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak (MKO) flag at the Thompson RCMP detachment marked the first time that an Indigenous flag has been raised there.
“We’re very honoured to be provided with the flag today to raise in front of our detachment,” said Manitoba North district commander Supt. Kevin Lewis, prior to raising the flag with O-Pipon-Na-Piwin Cree Nation chief and MKO vice-chief Shirley Ducharme following a drum perfromance. “it’s very important that we maintain communication with the communities we serve and provided the best possible policing service we can.”
Ducharme said that Indigenous people have long had conflicts with and suffered mistreatment at the hands of police and government but that she hopes future generations of Indigenous people don’t encounter the same prejudices that hers and others have.
“Despite the many difficulties First Nations have encountered in our relationship with the RCMP, we are focused on building a stronger relationship with the RCMP in MKO territory,” she said. “I hope this will provide a strong signal to the Indigenous community in Northern Manitoba that the RCMP are open to working with us in a supportive way.”
The flag-raising was the first of two Ducharme participated in on Sunday, with the second coming at City Hall, where the National Indigenous Peoples Day flag was run up the flagpole for the second straight year.
“For Indigenous people, seeing the flag raised helps up feel proud of our identity,” Ducharme said. “Our people have been on this land since time immemorial. It’s important that our contributions are recognized. This event is a positive step towards reconciliation. This is a stepping stone for building more awareness of indigenous cultures in Thompson. I want to encourage everyone to keep working together in a good way, not just today but every day.”
That theme of unity was echoed by Thompson Mayor Colleen Smook and Hilda Anderson-Pyrz of MKO during a ceremony that also included singing, drumming and a dance performance.
“It’s with great honour that we’re going to fly this flag, last year being the first time it was done,” said Smook. “It’s just as special to see that it’s a tradition now, that it’s going to continue and it’s going to bring us together. We have so much farther to go. We’ve just started so we’ve definitely got to keep up the dialogue, keep up the peace.”
Anderson-Pyrz said positive relationships like that between MKO and the City of Thompson are the way forward to a more equitable future for everybody.
“The path forward is inclusive of all of us going forward together and carrying each other, lifting each other up,” she said.