Wolastoqey leader, City of Fredericton show commitment to reconciliation with ceremony

·3 min read
Wolastoq Grand Chief Ron Tremblay presents a wampum belt to Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers at city hall on Monday, as Juno award-winning singer Jeremy Dutcher performs for the ceremony. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)
Wolastoq Grand Chief Ron Tremblay presents a wampum belt to Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers at city hall on Monday, as Juno award-winning singer Jeremy Dutcher performs for the ceremony. (Aidan Cox/CBC - image credit)

A Wolastoqey leader is recognizing the City of Fredericton for its willingness to heal the relationship between the two communities.

The city council chamber was the location of a ceremony Monday evening, where Wolastoq Grand Chief Ron Tremblay of the Wolastoq Grand Council presented Fredericton Mayor Kate Rogers with a wampum belt.

About 30 guests gathered in the chamber as Tremblay addressed mayor and council in both the Wolastoqey and English languages.

Following his speech, another member of the council assisted in smudging the wampum belt before Tremblay handed it to Rogers, while Juno award-winning artist Jeremy Dutcher performed a song in the Wolastoqey language.

Speaking after the ceremony, Tremblay said a wampum belt is typically presented during ceremonies that mark an agreement between two people or groups.

"Prior to colonization and the settlers landing on our shores here, we used wampum for peace agreements, for agreements through marriage, through births, through the land sharing and so on.

"So I thought it was very fitting to present a wampum belt to the mayor and the council of Fredericton to put forward a renewal of relationship and to build truth and reconciliation and the peace and friendship relationship with the City of Fredericton.

The belt was made by Lisa-Maude Aubin-Berube, an artist from Wahsipekuk First Nation, which is located in Cacouna, Que.

It's described as a medicine belt and symoblizes an agreement to heal the relationship between two nations.

Aidan Cox/CBC
Aidan Cox/CBC

One side of the belt is designed with an image of a long house, which Tremblay describes as the traditional gathering place for Wolastoqey leadership.

On the other end is an image of city hall, with the distinctive clock tower.

In the middle of the two is a sacred pipe, symbolizing the desire to fortify a relationship of peace and friendship between the two entities.

We felt that we can build a relationship with this mayor and the council. - Wolastoq Grand Chief Ron Tremblay

Asked why the Wolastoq Grand Council decided to give the wampum belt to the city, Tremblay said Rogers "is a very open person."

"So I thought I'd reach my hand out to her, and she was willing to meet with us, and and we sat down and we, we connected right after, right off the bat.

"And we felt that we can build a relationship with this mayor and the council. And we tried in the past years, but it's, there was always huge roadblocks in the way."

Tremblay said city hall has also shown the willingness to collaborate, such as with the redevelopment of Officers' Square, where a corner will be dedicated to honouring the Wolastoqey.

"So that's, that to me is very respectful and following the truth and reconciliation [report's] call to action."

Speaking right after the ceremony, Rogers said she was honoured and moved by the Wolastoq Grand Council's gift.

"The fact that you're entrusting us, that after centuries of colonization and centuries of ill treatment and dishonesty, and far worse than that, you have the grace to come here to our chambers of governance and make this offering, it is beyond moving," Rogers said.

Rogers said the city will consider how it can properly preserve the belt while allowing it to also be on display to visitors.

"And our intention is we're looking at maybe building some sort of a shadow box or something to put on display either in the entry way of city hall or council chambers because it was sort of a governance to governance gifting … but we haven't worked out the details of that."

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