December 14, 2017 7:35 pm
Updated: December 18, 2017 10:03 am

Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue unveils Mohawk plaque

Thu, Dec 14: Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue is unveiling a plaque to acknowledge and honour the fact that the city is built on traditional Mohawk land. Global's Phil Carpenter reports.

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A small group of people gathered at Kelso Park in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue Thursday morning, to officially commemorate the planting of a white pine tree 12 years ago that was part of a cultural exchange between the Montreal suburb and the Mohawk people of Kahnawake.

“We planted a white pine in honour of the Mowhawk people of Kahnawake, the Mohawk nation in general,” explains Ryan Young, Sainte-Anne City Councillor, “and it was part of a cultural exchange that we did as part of a tree planting program, with Tree Canada.”

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They unveiled a plaque that was installed beside the tree to commemorate the planting. On it is an inscription explaining why the tree was planted, and its significance, in French, English and Mohawk.

READ MORE: Cross-Canada expedition reaches out to Montreal Mohawks

“Students [who] are Mohawk [who] are coming to John Abbott or McGill University’s Macdonald Campus, when they come and walk along the park, they can actually see their language reflected,” Young said.

The whole exercise is an attempt at reconciliation and an acknowledgment that Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue sits on part of traditional Mohawk territory.  Hence, the symbolism of the white pine.

“This white pine symbolizes the great tree of peace,” said Young.

It was planted as part of a joint program between Sainte-Anne and Kahnawake.

“Thank god it’s still alive it’s gonna be a hundred feet tall one day,” said Michael Rosen, a representative of Tree Canada who attended the ceremony.  His organization funded the municipality to plant a variety of trees in both Sainte-Anne and Kahnawake.

The white pine is also represented in the new Montreal flag unveiled this past summer, yet another recognition of Montreal as traditional Mohawk territory. This and other activities Thursday are gestures that some Mohawks attending the ceremony, say are important.

READ MORE: ‘Marry out, move out’ Kahnawake rule challenged in Longueuil courthouse

Barbara Kaneratonni Diabo, a Mohawk from Kahnawake who now lives in Kirkland, was thrilled about the plaque and the tree.

“Some people only think of Kahnawake or Kanasetake as where the Mohawks are. But this is still our land. It’s unceded territory here, and people are beginning to acknowledge that respect. As one elder told me, ‘it’s just good manners to thank your hosts.'”

She believes that it’s through further education and dialogue that lasting reconciliation can happen.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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