By Rick Garrick
Fort William First Nation’s flag was raised permanently at Thunder Bay City Hall on May 2 by youth from both communities.
“It really means a lot to our community because of the contributions we made to the City of Thunder Bay,” says Fort William Chief Peter Collins. “If you look at 1904-1905 when there was a health issue in the City of Thunder Bay, where did they get their water from. They got it from Fort William, so we made sure that the residents of Thunder Bay were healthy.”
Thunder Bay City Council approved the addition of the Fort William flag to fly permanently alongside the City of Thunder Bay, Ontario and Canadian flags in front of City Hall on April 25.
“Today is another historical moment for our communities,” Collins says. “As we build those relationships going forward, we have to stay strong and stay focused on what we need to change to change the lives of all of our community members, from the city side to our side. We can only do that together.”
Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs says the youth who raised the flag are a sign of the future.
“That is our future and our future is in great hands,” Hobbs says. “Today is a very significant day as we permanently raise Fort William First Nation’s flag alongside the Canadian, Ontario and Thunder Bay city flags flown here at City Hall. It will serve as a reminder of the close and important relationship that we have with one another as communities and as neighbours.”
Hobbs applauded the crowd of people who witnessed the flag raising at City Hall. Representatives from First Nation organizations and the city, including fire, police and transit workers, were among those in attendance.
“There was an awesome crowd,” Hobbs says. “It was great to see the community come out to celebrate this, because it is history.”
Fort William Councillor Michele Solomon says the flag rising was symbolic of the history between Fort William and Thunder Bay.
“I believe it was a positive move in the right direction,” Solomon says. “There was a lot of people, and definitely a lot of people came to see this historic moment. It’s honouring the relationship we have with the City of Thunder Bay and it’s honouring Fort William First Nation’s traditional territory and the relationship.”
Fort William Councillor Kyle MacLaurin says the flag raising shows a sign of mutual respect between Fort William and Thunder Bay.
“This is our traditional lands that Thunder Bay is built on, so it was a long time coming,” MacLaurin says. “It’s nice to see they show the respect and acknowledge our territory. It shows we can work together to overcome any issues we may have had in the past and move forward and go together.”
Thunder Bay City Council previously signed a Declaration of Commitment with Fort William Band Council in 2011 as a way to move together toward a brighter future.
“It was a great honour to sign the Declaration of Commitment with Fort William First Nation in 2011,” Hobbs says, “and I think it’s important that we not only recognize our good neighbours, but the traditional lands we are on by flying their flag here at City Hall.”
Thunder Bay City Council also encouraged other municipalities in northwestern Ontario to follow their path as a sign of respect for the traditional lands of the region.