For the first time, Kamloops City Hall has raised the national flag for the Métis. To honour the champion of the Métis people, Louis Riel, Kamloops Métis celebrated the many accomplishments they have earned in the last two years.
Nov. 16, also known as of 2016 as Louis Riel Day in B.C., will also be known in Kamloops as the inaugural raising of the Métis flag. British Columbia itself is home to nearly 70,000 self-identified Métis people, the fourth largest Métis population in Canada.
The morning of the flag raising opened with prayer and blessing from two elders from the Two Rivers Métis Society (TRMS), worshiping their god and creator. The prayer, dedicated to one of their elders who has recently passed, was spoken in both English and French.
Over the past two years, the Métis people have accomplished many great milestones. Lii Michif Otipemisiwak Family and Community Services (LMO) has become an official child designate. The culturally congruent co-housing apartment complex built specifically for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Elders and youth, Kikékyelc: A Place of Belonging, was recently approved. In addition, the partnership between Two Rivers Métis, LMO, TRU and the City of Kamloops has improved greatly, making this event possible.
TRMS President and City Hall representative, Dean Gladue, opened with acknowledgment of the recent accomplishment of Canada fully recognizing Métis as the third group of Indigenous people.
Many of the speeches of the morning revolved around the past struggles and injustices the Métis people experienced. By acknowledging the past, the Métis people are moving towards being able to freely celebrate and grow as Canada works towards reconciliation.
Those attending the flag raising ceremony held great pride for their heritage and traditions. The morning was populated with young and old, all connected by the multi-coloured sash worn across their bodies, signifying their heritage.
The morning was full of honour, joy and pride as the land was blessed with a local honour song and the Métis National Anthem was sung loud and proud by the people gathered in front of Kamloops City Hall.
Gladue shared stories of his own family history in the 1810’s as they fought for Métis rights. He shared that as he discovered his history, he felt further connected to the flag flying over Kamloops this past weekend.
“When you fly a flag, it makes a statement to the community,” said Gladue. “We’re here, we’re free people. We will not go away.”
The raising of the flag represented the pride that these people have for their heritage, ridding their families of the shame and hidden parts of their culture.
“I encourage you as Métis to wake up and be a part of our nation,” said Gladue. “Do what you can do to move forward for our children.”
As celebration, four jiggers from the Lii Michif Buffalo Gals Jigging Group danced gleefully to the sounds of live fiddles, showing pride for their culture.
The Métis national flag flew proudly over Kamloops all weekend, from Friday to Monday.