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City of Airdrie to erect Indigenous flags and public art donation this year

According to Lutz, raising the flags is significant to the community and is an important gesture to acknowledge the agreement that was made with the Treaty 7 members.

The City of Airdrie will be flying some new flags, both inside and outside council chambers, and showcasing some public art in honour of First Nations peoples this year.

During the regular meeting of council on Jan. 16, council gave the green light to erect both the Métis and Treaty 7 flags at City Hall and approved the next phase for an upcoming Indigenous art installation slated for Nose Creek Regional Park.

Council directed administration that the Métis flag and Treaty 7 flag be displayed in council chambers, and on flagpoles alongside the municipal, provincial, and national flags, and to coordinate with local Indigenous leaders on a flag-placing ceremony to “recognize proper protocol.”

“In 2022, we did a lot of relationship-building with our Indigenous friends, and we received endorsement from Indigenous communities and their governing bodies, which is equally important to permanently display the flags,” said Jennifer Lutz, community development team leader with the City.

“This is definitely a long time coming and we just wanted to make sure we were doing this in a good way with a lot of Indigenous feedback and relationship-building. The steps came into place and we’re really happy we’re here today to talk about this.”

On Jan. 16, Council approved an addition to the operating budget of up to $15,600 to be pulled from the general operating reserve for the purpose of buying and installing the additional flagpoles in front of City Hall.

According to Lutz, raising the flags is significant to the community and is an important gesture to acknowledge the agreement that was made with the Treaty 7 members.

“The treaties were written in law with the government of the day that represented us with the Indigenous people who lived on this land for thousands and thousands of years,” she said during the meeting. “Treaties are in place as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows.

“We are all treaty people because we signed those agreements and the government of the day signed on our behalf.”

Lutz said more and more municipalities are choosing to support Truth and Reconciliation by adding Indigenous flags by their municipal buildings, either in a temporary, ceremonial way or permanently.

Coun. Al Jones said he was very happy to see the proposal come to council and added he is “fully supportive” of having the flags on display both inside and outside City Hall.

Additionally, Coun. Ron Chapman recommended Nose Creek Regional Park as an ideal place to display the flags permanently, but added he wasn’t opposed to displaying them outside of City Hall either.

Chapman brought up how a new Indigenous-themed public art donation is slated to be installed in Nose Creek Regional Park, which would create another chance for the municipality to recognize Airdrie's First Nation residents this year.

According to Lutz, more than a year ago, an anonymous donor came forward to sponsor a public artwork made in collaboration with Indigenous partners and artists. During the Jan. 16 meeting, council approved the proposed Indigenous-themed bronze statues donated to the City of Airdrie’s public art collection.

“This project marks the first major Indigenous public art project to be added to the art collection,” Lutz shared. “Overall, we’re really proud of the work accomplished by everybody involved, and we’ve learned a lot in this process.”

She said the vision for the project has been in place for close to two years. Once approved by council, it will continue to be fine-tuned in collaboration with Indigenous friends and with the donor, and artist.

According to Lutz, the Indigenous-themed bronze statues represent a grandmother and her three grandchildren, and the addition of a dog, which is a symbol of protection.

“Apparently, an elder wouldn’t have gone out without that protection,” Lutz shared, adding the donor accepted the recommended additions at an additional cost to them. “The grandmother will have a moss bag with a baby.”

“The donor wants to have a healing ceremony associated with it that honors Indigenous cultures and values.”

Following the presentation, Mayor Peter Brown extended his gratitude to the donor of the artwork, which is valued at $300,000.

“This has been an amazingly long process for many different reasons, but through your patience and kindness, we just can’t thank you enough,” he said.

In closing the discussion, Chapman suggested there are some key locations within Nose Creek Regional Park that would be ideally suited for the art installation.

Coun. Tina Petrow said she is very happy to see how the process has played out. She noted that though it has taken some time, she believes additional time is sometimes necessary to “get it exactly right.”

“I’m excited about the location – I envision when you’re driving down Main Street, you’ll see these figures from so many different angles, so it’s so neat to see these,” she said. “I’m looking forward to seeing that when it comes back after all the assessments are done.”

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