Montreal pays tribute to indigenous people to mark 375th anniversary
Published Wednesday, May 17, 2017 10:52PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 18, 2017 8:55AM EDT
One of the events marking the 375th anniversary of the founding of Montreal was a tribute to indigenous people.
The first settlement of Ville Marie was built in an area where the aboriginal people had already settled.
At a luncheon at City Hall, Chief Christine Zachary-Deom spoke of how French missionaries were in poor shape when they arrived in 1642.
"They were in bad condition and our medicine saved them. They had scurvy and no one ever talks about that," said the member of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.
She spoke of the long history of collaboration between the Mohawks and Canadian settlers, including being allies in the war of 1812 and multiple battles.
Zacharay-Deom said it's entirely appropriate for indigenous people to celebrate Montreal's anniversary.
"I celebrate their endurance, I celebrate our endurance," she said.
But other indigenous people do not feel the same way.
Nakuset, who was taken from her birth family as a child, believes the money spent on celebrations would be better spent on helping the poor.
"When the settlers arrived here we offered them a way of life, food. Maybe they could have done the same thing," said the woman who runs the Native Women's Shelter in Montreal.
Politicians at the event, including Premier Philippe Couillard, said it was time to heal wounds, especially those caused by the residential schools program and the Sixties Sweep.
Mayor Denis Coderre reiterated his plan to add an indigenous symbol to Montreal's flag.
"I recognize the stain that we have on history. The fact that we tried to get rid of your culture.... There were atrocities hat happened," said Coderre. "We all have to be part of the solution."
Those words, including the idea of changing some street names, resonated with Joe Delaronde, spokesperson for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.
"When you've had no actions for 375 years, really these are actually pretty big. They're significant," said Delaronde.
"When the mayor makes that approach it's pretty hard not to pay attention and say wow, somebody is being sincere about this."