LETHBRIDGE - If you drive past City Hall in downtown Lethbridge you'll see another flag flying alongside the Canadian flag.
The Métis Nation of Alberta Association Local 2003 held their flag raising event Tuesday morning (Nov. 14) to help recognize and celebrate Métis week in the city.
The flag has been flown since 1814, and Elder Louise Saloff says they raise the flag at the same time every year in honour of Louis Riel.
Riel is the political leader of the Métis people, and was hung on Nov. 16 1885 after leading a pair of rebellions against the government of Canada and its first post-Confederation prime minister, John A. Macdonald.
"We welcomed everyone from the community to join us this morning because the Métis are a combination of European people and First Nations people and understand the importance of being an inclusive people," Saloff said. "We're a blend, a unique nation that speaks Michif, which is a mixed language that uses French nouns with Cree verbs and Cree grammar."
Saloff says there's probably about 5,000 Métis people in Southern Alberta right now.
The ceremony featured the welcoming of the dignitaries, including Mayor Chris Spearman. Grace and Sarah Schamber talked about the history of the Métis people and Louis Riel, and then the Order of the Sash was presented.
"The Order of the Sash for the Métis is very similar to what the Governor General Award would be for Alberta, where anyone in the community who has made a significant contribution to the Métis nation within our community can be acknowledged." Saloff added.
There were six recipients: Greg Schmidt and Anne Becker from Family Ties, Max Gibb and Rose Rossi from the Rocky Mountain Turf Club, and Jacinda Weiss and Amanda Scout from the Urban Aboriginal Council of Lethbridge.
Saloff says the six of them have gone above and beyond in helping them grow, reach out, hold events and obtain grants to continue on in the community.
Amanda Scout, who's the Community Engagement and Partnerships Coordinator for Native Counselling Services Alberta, says she was very honoured to be on hand for the ceremony today and says it means a lot.
"I've worked within the Aboriginal community here for the last 12 years or so, and I've known the ladies with the Local 2003 Métis nation for a long time as well," Scout said.
She also pointed to the reconciliation work being done as a reason for the honour.
"I think we have a really diverse group doing the reconciliation work in Lethbridge. We've got lots of Blackfoot people, Piikani people, our Métis people and a number of other Aboriginal groups that are living here but come from different areas of Canada as well," Scout added.
Jacinda Weiss, a Program Specialist at the University of Lethbridge, says there's obviously a large Blackfoot presence in Lethbridge but it's been very welcoming of the Métis.
"Our relationship has really grown over the years. I've been involved with the Métis local since about 2008, and they've been so welcoming and supportive," Weiss said.
A lot of the local Métis members are volunteers, so they're doing extra work at their desks or in whatever spare time they have according to Weiss.
"It was nice to be able to help them to able to do some capacity building, doing some proposals and helping them secure some funding," Weiss added. "It's just to easy to offer my time, because these are people that I want to help."
The theme of inclusivity is one that Saloff tried to touch on at today's event as well.
"We want to be inclusive, and that's another thing we want people to understand. You don't have to be Métis to come to our events, we welcome all cultures to come out and join us," Saloff said.
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