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Flag raising looked upon proudly by OCN


Opaskwayak Cree Nation (OCN) took a symbolic milestone towards nationhood on Tuesday as they held an inaugural flag raising at Opaskwayak Indian Days (OID) Park near the Gordon Lathlin Memorial Centre. A large number of OCN community members gathered to watch.
A number of local community members gathered with the Mahinkanak drumming group in attendance to sing during the flag raising itself something one of the Onuschekawak members noticed.
“It’s good to see all the youth out here, the hockey clubs the Blizzard and the Storm,” said John Paul Martin, member of the Onuschekawak of OCN.
The Onekanew explained what the symbols on the flag represented for OCN and what it means in indigenous culture.
“In that circle we have the representations of the elders, the father, the mother, the youth and the child, the baby, that’s the five demographics that make up our society as First Nations and then within the flag there’s the eagle staff which is our flag as First Nations people. In that eagle staff there are 13 feathers that represent the 13 moons of our calendar year, and with the eagle which is prominent in all First Nations societies the eagle head sits within the circle. That is the meaning of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation flag which is flying proud which gives everyone a sense of honor and dignity as First Nations as you look over the river at the Canadian flag. That’s who our ancestors signed a treaty with as nation to nation,” said Christian Sinclair, Onekanew of OCN.
One elderly community member who has previously been on Onekanew and Onuschekawak for a long time was happy to see more progress taking place in his community. The flag raising was one thing that he was happy about, to re-affirm who they are as a people. It’s more than that to him; however, it is an affirmation of who they are; not The Pas but Opaskwayak.
“We developed it when I was acting chief and chief after that. When they said The Pas Indian Band we said Opaskwayak, that’s what everybody (before) knew The Pas as, Opaskwayak; as the Opaskwayak people,” former Onekanew of OCN William J. Lathlin, who served from 1997 to 1999, stated. Lathlin was on the Onuschekawak for 13 terms starting in 1974 before becoming Onekanew.
“All the native people in the north, east and west that’s what they called us. We’re going back to that, going back to who we are as a people; our language and our identity.”
In fact it’s another milestone for him after having a long period of time in serving OCN.
“I was involved in the building of the community when we kicked the Indian Agent out, that’s when we began to develop ourselves. We didn’t trust the Indian Agent; they didn’t do anything for us. From that time on I’ve been involved in the development of our community. The people in our town didn’t like it when we built a school for our community, there weren’t very many graduates coming out of the other system. Now we have a lot of graduates coming out of our schools,” Lathlin added, saying there is still much more work to do. “In the process we forgot about the mental well-being of our people in building our language so we have to go back to teaching our language. That’s what I’ve been involved in (currently).”
Now flying high above OCN, the people of OCN -be it elders, the Onekanew, the youth or any other community member- can look up to their flag proudly.

Trevor Wright