The Sts’ailes flag will now be flying proudly above Harrison Hot Springs’ civic plaza every day of the year.
On Friday (Sept. 6), Sts’ailes and Harrison Hot Springs honoured the first nation’s traditional territory in the village with a flag raising ceremony.
“The village of Harrison Hot Springs and Sts’ailes has strong relationship, built on mutual respect, trust and partnership,” Harrison mayor Leo Facio said during the ceremony. “It is in this spirit of respect that we wish to have the Sts’ailes flag displayed next to ours in a prominent place in our village.”
The flag, he added, would serve as a “constant recognition” of the traditional Sts’ailes lands as well as help educate visitors on the history of the area, which included the ancient village of Qwó:ils, which was where Harrison is now.
Sts’ailes Chief Ralph Leon agreed, adding that he was grateful for the support of other governments to make having the flag in the community possible.
“Reconciliation means so much to Sts’ailes,” he said. “This flag that’s going to hang here, is going to ground each and every one of us to the land. Those that live here. All the ancestors that lived here for umpteen thousand years. And our children, who are here to witness the work.”
“We talk about a beautiful future for all of our people,” he continued. “We work for the same people. We work for the same children. And I know, after the ceremony, it’s going to become a real proud moment for all of us.”
Previously, the flag had only been raised during events like Sasquatch Days, which first started in Harrison in the 1930s. After the Friday ceremony, the flag will be up in the civic plaza every day alongside the Harrison, British Columbian and Canadian flags.
The flag raising incorporated elements of traditional Sts’ailes ceremonies, including two young people to serve as markers for the event — though as emcee Chaquawet Willie Charlie noted, the partnership between Sts’ailes and Harrison meant the ceremony was much shorter than was common.
The ceremony also recognized a number of witnesses, who would help remember the flag raising as part of Sts’ailes oral history. Many of these witnesses were dignitaries from nearby communities, including Sq’ewelts Chief Johnny Williams, Kent mayor Sylvia Pranger, MP Jati Sidhu, MLA Laurie Throness and Fraser Valley Regional District chair Jason Lum.
Several spoke during the event, particularly on the burgeoning friendship between Sts’ailes and Harrison, and the importance of building inter-community connections.
However, Lum said, although reconciliation was taking place by flying the Sts’ailes flag, the truth part of that movement needed to be recognized.
“The Sts’ailes flag, while it is a very important symbol, just represents the truth,” he said. “The truth is that there has always been a beautiful, vibrant, enduring culture that has existed here.
“Sts’ailes knows that; has always known that,” he continued. “This symbol is more for non-Indigenous people who come here, and now will start to understand and learn about that truth.”
As Leon said at the end of the ceremony, the flag raising was only one part of the migration towards truth and reconciliation in the Fraser Valley.
“The work is done now,” he said about the flag. “Now we can move on with the beautiful work.
“I look around and I see you all going like this,” he added, nodding his head. “I can’t wait to sit at the table and see you do the same.”