Flags raised in solidarity

Flags raised in solidarity

By Eddie Daniels, Communications Coordinator, Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic)

January 19, 2021


Six flags at Goodes Hall
Six flags – Anishinaabe First Nations People, Six Nations Confederacy, Two Row Wampum, Métis Nation, LGBTQ2S+ Pride, and Trans Pride – hang in the front windows of Goodes Hall. (University Communications / Photo by Lars Hagberg)

Queen’s University visitors will notice new additions to select buildings across its campus.

Six flags – Anishinaabe First Nations People, Six Nations Confederacy, Two Row Wampum, Métis Nation, LGBTQ2S+ Pride, and Trans Pride – have been placed at the Athletics and Recreation Centre (ARC), Chernoff Hall, Goodes Hall, New Medical Building, in addition to the Faculty of Education and the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies buildings.

The university has embarked upon a mission to make those flags visible throughout the campus in response to a June 2020 hate crime, which saw Four Directions Indigenous Students Centre’s flags damaged. Although just one of numerous initiatives now flowing from the university’s Extending the Rafters: Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force Report, the overarching goal is to achieve a state of solidarity for people of all backgrounds.

“To me, the flag initiative means people are sincerely interested in understanding our shared relationship on the land here as Indigenous people and non-Indigenous people,” says Kanonhsyonne (Janice Hill) Associate Vice-Principal (Indigenous Initiatives and Reconciliation). “And sincerely wanting to understand not just our history, but how we move forward in a good way and seeing things from our perspective.”

Queen’s Physical Plant Services members installed the flags at each location. Buildings currently displaying the flags were chosen for multiple reasons, including the level of visibility each building provides, allowing campus visitors to easily see the flags.  

“It has been a pretty heavy time for people dealing with COVID-19 and it was really nice to work on this type of initiative,” Pierre Bartkowiak, Physical Plant Services Area Manager, says. “It’s a really uplifting message, uplifting story and fits well with Queen’s larger goal of inclusivity. Making sure that everybody feels welcome on campus.”

Plans are afoot to install the flags, which will hang indefinitely, at future locations. As for the impetus in this campus-wide push, a July 17, 2020 ceremony was held as each of the six flags were hung inside the Four Directions Indigenous Student Centre, ensuring a safe, welcoming sight for those who pass the Barrie Street location.

There’s a simple, yet impactful statement that accompanies Queen’s University correspondence or signage and is read before all events. It states: “Queen's University is situated on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee Territory.” It is a public acknowledgement that the university campus is situated on traditional Indigenous lands.

Through that acknowledgment and additional teachings, Hill is hopeful an impact will be felt today and for generations to come.

“If students leave Queen’s without an understanding of (Indigenous) history, then we’re doing them a disservice,” Hill says. “Not only them, but the country they will serve in their professional lives, in their personal lives. And with that knowledge comes the understanding, I hope, that we are all treaty people. Everybody who walks this land is a treaty person because those treaties, those agreements were for all of us, not just my people.”

The message is clear: Queen’s is a safe, welcoming place for everyone.


Flag Descriptions

Métis Flag – The Métis Nation are of mixed Indigenous and European descent, carrying a unique culture, history, and language. This is exemplified in their customs and way of life, which pull from both Indigenous and European lineages, but are also separate from either heritage, forming their own traditions. Métis communities were prevalent around the Great Lakes, many of Ontario’s waterways and in the northern portion of the province. In 1982 when the Canadian constitution was repatriated, First Nations, Inuit, and Métis were recognized as Indigenous Peoples with rights under Canadian law. The Métis Infinity Flag, which has two variations — red or blue — features a white infinity symbol at the centre and dates to 1815. The infinity symbol represents: a.) the joining of two cultures, and b.) the existence of a people forever.

Anishinaabe First Nations People – The Anishinaabe First Nations is comprised of the Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Odawa (Ottawa), Chippewa, Mississauga, Saulteaux, Nipissing, and Algonquin people. Anishinaabe, which means Original People or Good People, lived as far west as Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Minnesota, Michigan and the Great Lakes, throughout north Ontario, up the St. Lawrence River and into Quebec City. The Anishinaabe First Nations flag features a thunderbird (Animikii) at the centre. According to traditional stories, this powerful, spiritual animal is said to create the sound of thunder just by the flapping of its wings. The bird is also a protector with the ability to bring rain that nurtures and cleanses the earth.

Six Nations Confederacy – This alliance originally featured the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, and Mohawk nations, later adding the Tuscarora in the early 1700s. The initial accord, which took place in A.D. 1200 under what is known as the “Great Tree of Peace,” brought peace amongst the nations. Collectively, the confederation’s people are known as the Haudenosaunee, which means "The People of the Longhouse." The Longhouse symbolizes the expanse of land, stretching throughout New York State. To memorialize the confederacy, a wampum belt known as the Hiawatha Belt, was created. Made up of purple shells, the belt represents each of the original five nations and is read from right to left. The first symbol represents the Mohawk, followed by a symbol representing the Oneida. At the centre is the Great Tree of Peace, which represents the Onondaga. To the immediate left of the tree is the symbol for the Cayuga, followed by the Seneca. Each symbol is connected, representing the union of the nations.

Two Row Wampum – When members of the Mohawk Nation noticed unannounced, new settlers clearing Mohawk land along the Hudson River, near present-day Albany, on which to build homes with their families, they sent a delegation. At the heart of that meeting in 1613 was to set guidelines on how the Haudenosaunee and Dutch would treat each other. It was agreed the two groups would treat each other as brothers and form a relationship built on friendship, peace, and a relationship that would last forever. From that, a belt was designed to symbolize this new venture. The Two Row Wampum belt, also known as the Kahswentha, is made of white wampum shells featuring two purple lines, each representing individual vessels (a canoe and a ship). The canoe represented the Haudenosaunee way of life, while the ship represented the Dutch way of life. Each individual vessel, made up of its own cultures and traditions, travel side by side on the river of life in peace and friendship on Turtle Island (North America).

Wampum belts have a fond significance to Queen’s University. During a March 7, 2017 ceremony, the Clan Mothers at Tyendinaga and the Grandmothers’ Council in Kingston presented the friendship wampum belt to the Queen’s University Senate. This precious symbol of friendship and peace is present at all Senate meetings.

Transgender Pride Flag – Created in 1999 by Monica Helms, a trans woman, the Transgender Pride Flag features just three colours presented in five, horizontal stripes. The top and bottom bands are light blue, the traditional colour for baby boys. Two inner stripes are pink to represent girls and the centre colour is white, symbolizing those who are either transitioning, gender neutral or don’t identify with either gender. This flag was first flown in Phoenix, Arizona during a Pride Parade.

LGTBQ2S+ Pride Flag – Created by the late Gilbert Baker in 1978, the Pride Flag was originally flown during the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade that same year. In 1979, the Rainbow Flag, which represents the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Two-Spirit (LGBTQ2S) social movements, was redesigned from eight colours to six. Those six colours symbolize: Red - Life, Orange - Healing, Yellow - Vitality/Sunlight, Green - Serenity/Nature, Blue - Harmony, Violet - Spirit. In describing the flag in 2015, Baker said the rainbow colours connected with nature and represented the immense diversity of the LGBTQ2S community.