By Kelly Anne Smith
STURGEON FALLS – It is the first time a non-indigenous business owner has purchased an Anishinabek Nation Flag to be flown at a business in Sturgeon Falls.
The owner of Marco Polo Pizzeria, Marco Lachance, raised the flag at the start of October. He explains his motives for flying the Anishinabek Nation Flag at his new restaurant on Front Street. “It is about support. I am very honoured to fly it for my neighbours.”
While he serves up specialties of homemade pizzas and pastas, Lachance wanted to show his acknowledgement that Nipissing First Nation is part of the community. “It’s about time everybody wakes up. First Nations are part of our community and of Canada.”
The Anishinabek Nation has flown its flag for over 40 years. Its design features a white thunderbird within a white circle on a red background. The Anishinabek Flag Law resolution, 2008, states, “The flag is intended to be used for public discourse to refer to the sovereign existence of the Anishinabek both as a people and a government, as well as represent the set of policies, ideology and world values held.”
After Marco Polo opened, Lachance noticed that there weren’t any First Nation flags around town except for on the reserves. “I asked a Nipissing First Nation woman who is working for me where I might get an Anishinabek Flag. She said she knew exactly where I could get one and said, “I’ll get you the real thing.” They came and purchased one at the Union of Ontario Indians head office on Hwy 17 West.
“I wanted to have the real flag. I was so pleased to receive the flag after it had been blessed. It came in with cedar smelling nice. I made sure it didn’t touch the ground when I put it up. That’s important. I put it up and backed up to give it respect.”
Lachance says we all must welcome the indigenous community and their language also. “Everywhere you go up north you will see signs that are French, English and Aboriginal. Depending on where it is, it could be French first or sometimes aboriginal first.”
Working with two Nipissing First Nation women from Garden Village, Lachance says they are always asking each other “How do you say this in your language” or “How do you say that in French?”
Being from Sturgeon Falls originally, Lachance said that as he was growing up people would acknowledge each other as they walked by on the sidewalk.
“We have to get there again. And have First Nations totally accepted in Canada. It is about time they are given a voice. They should have had their true voice right from the beginning.”
Lachance knows there have been differences in the past but is hopeful that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission will open doors. “People have to understand we are all human. In the summer I welcomed American visitors by having their flag up. There was a couple who came in questioning why I was flying an American flag. I told them they are our neighbours. We should learn it is all about multi-culturalism and respecting the heritage of our neighbours.”
Lachance says he is inspired by the adventurer Marco Polo, who was eager to learn about other cultures. “Marco Polo always had a good track record.”