The sight of the Treaty 6, Whitecap Dakota First Nation, and Métis flags flying above Saskatoon Public Schools' Board of Education office was a welcome sign for Chief Mark Arcand.
Arcand, chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council, joined representatives of the school division and Whitecap Dakota and Métis communities on Nov. 2 to celebrate the raising of the flags and affirm the relationship between the division and its partners in education.
"When I drove up this morning, I was proud to see all of the flags in unison, not one in front of the other but side by side sharing that common vision of community," Arcand told the crowd assembled for the occasion.
"When you talk about partnerships and relationships, Saskatoon Public Schools is a valued partner in the work that they do for our children."
The three flags representing the First Nation and Métis communities served by the school division joined the Canadian and Saskatchewan flags that fly permanently above the building's entrances.
"Today's raising of the three flags is an action that speaks directly to commitments made by our school division. We have a clear vision at Saskatoon Public Schools – we want every student to be known, valued, and believed in," said Kathleen Brannen, vice-chair of the Saskatoon Board of Education.
"This flag raising is also about putting our commitment to reconciliation into action. We have made a promise in writing with our response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Calls to Action, but our school division wants to make clear our priorities to the community. The continual presence of the Treaty 6, Whitecap Dakota, and Métis flags on our board office will show our commitment to students, to staff, to the community, and to our goal of reconciliation. We also hope it will prompt other organizations in the community to put reconciliation into action for themselves."
Glen McCallum, president of Métis Nation – Saskatchewan, noted the importance of symbols that represent inclusion, such as the flags. He said building relationships allows partners in education to provide a foundation to continue the work of healing and understanding.
"School is a very important place to be, to be able to learn, to be able to make it in the world, but more important that you can get in touch with the different cultures in this province and right across Canada. When I see the flags being raised, it tells us something," McCallum said.
Chief Darcy Bear of Whitecap Dakota First Nation emphasized the importance of education to the Whitecap community and the value placed on the First Nation's partnership with Saskatoon Public Schools.
"The word Dakota actually means ally . . . it's always good to create those partnerships and work together and move forward together," he said.
Whitecap Dakota's long-standing educational partnership with Saskatoon Public Schools includes Charles Red Hawk Elementary School as an alliance school. The division's Chief Whitecap School includes additional space and amenities that help support cultural opportunities for Whitecap students, who attend the school beginning in Grade 5, along with all of the school's students.
The event also included a donation to the Saskatoon Public Schools Foundation's Early Learning Equal Start initiative. A total of $42,720 was raised through the sale of Every Child Matters orange T-shirts in a partnership with Wanuskewin Gift Shop.
Learn more about Saskatoon Public Schools' response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action on our website.