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For the Mohawk, the island of Tiohtià:ke tsi ionhwéntsare has long been meeting point with other nations
“Events were taking place amongst the Indigenous people back then,” said Grand Chief Joseph Tokwiro Norton of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke. “They would build a big huge fire on the top of Mount Royal, and that’s the direction that people knew to go to and gather.”
The island in the middle of the St.Laurence River has since become better known under a different name.
“I always say, Montréal is one of Kahnawà:ke s most successful suburbs,” said Norton.
Currently, there’s little recognition from the city of its Indigenous heritage, or that Montréal is on Mohawk territory. But now in time for the Montréal’s 375th-anniversary celebrations, city hall is looking to rectify what’s become a glaring omission.
“I think it’s a matter of recognition, okay? The fact that we’re always talking about the founders, we have to remember that we’re on Mohawk territory and the First Nations were there,” said Montréal Mayor Denis Coderre.
An obvious start, he said would be to change the city’s 78-year-old flag.
Based on the city’s coat of arms from 1839, the design was conceived to pay homage to the city’s founding peoples: on it is a fleur-de-lys for the French, a shamrock for the Irish, the rose of Lancaster for the English and a thistle for the Scottish.
Coderre said the city is now looking at ways to incorporate a symbol to represent First Nations on the flag.
“Reconciliation doesn’t mean to revisit the past, but it means that we recognize what happens in the past, but we have some strong symbol to say that maybe we show that we’re for real. And frankly, to carry a flag means a lot.”
20 minutes away on Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory, reaction to changing the flag has been positive.
“It’s a good thing,” said Norton. “It gives recognition to the fact that the island itself and the region was occupied and that we played a significant, important role in the growth of the island, and you know if we had not allowed them to live there then there would be no Montreal.”
As of right now, it’s unclear whether the new flag design will specifically honour the Mohawk…or if it will be more inclusive of the nine other nations in Quebec.
“Well, being biased naturally, I would say it has to represent Mohawk,” shrugged Norton.
Regardless of how the flag is updated, the city’s 184 year old Latin motto “Concordia Salus”, or “salvation through harmony”… seems more appropriate today than ever before.
1 thought on “Montréal looking to fix 80 year old flag that has a big hole in it”
Unfortunately history is not so simple. It’s a fact that there was an iroquoian group in the St. Lawrence valley when Cartier traveled there and they are called in French the ‘Iroquoïens du St-Laurent’ but they disappeared after the last trip of Cartier (1541). In fact, in 1535 Cartier visited a large community called Hochelaga (approx. 3,000 people) near Mount Royal but in 1541 Hochelaga had already disappeared and had been replaced by 2 smaller villages. When Champlain returned to the St. Lawrence valley in 1608 this group of Iroquoians had disperesed and it is believed that they migrated to the west and some of the individuals went to live with the Hurons and the Mohawks, south and west of their former land.
Kahnawake was land set aside in 1680 for the Agniers (as the French called them at the time, now known as Mohawks) who had converted to catholicism but they mostly came from the south (Lake George & south), their ancestral territory. The Mohawks of that time were allied with the British and were at war with New France and both groups raided each other repeatedly, at least until the Great Peace of Montréal in 1701. Yet in the wars that followed, including the Seven Year War (when New France was ceded to Britain in 1763) the Mohawks (as part of the the Six Nations) sided with the British but for those who lived in the Kahnawake area, that was ‘reserved’ for their people. The land was always indigenous but it never ‘belonged’ to any nation in particular as no one could own land and it’s futile to try to find what particular nation should appear on the flag…
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