• John Jantak

Ste. Anne’s inaugurates plaque to commemorate bond with Kahnawake

PHOTO BY JOHN JANTAK Ste. Anne de Bellevue Councillor Ryan Young (left), Akwesasne Chief Joe Lazore, Jacques-Cartier Liberal MNA and Minister responsible for Indian Affairs, Geoff Kelley, Mayor Paola Hawa, and Tree Canada President Michael Rosen inaugurate a plaque at Kelso Park in honour of the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation on Thursday, December 14.

A plaque in honour of the Kahnawake Mohawk Nation was inaugurated at Kelso Park in Ste. Anne de Bellevue on Thursday, December 14.

The event was attended by Geoff Kelley, the provincial Jacques-Cartier Liberal MNA and Minister responsible for Native Affairs, Ste. Anne’s Mayor Paola Hawa, Councillor Ryan Young, Tree Canada President Michael Rosen and Akwesasne Chief Joe Lazore on behalf of Kahnawake Grand Chief Joe Norton who was unable to attend the event.

The commemoration took place in front of a white pine that was planted in May 2005 to symbolize the bond between Kahnawake and Ste. Anne’s, said Hawa. The white pine is also considered as the Great Tree of Peace by the Mohawk people.

“Beautiful initiative”

“It’s a beautiful initiative. It respects and represents our history. Ste. Anne’s has a very long history of interaction with the Mohawk people who were some of the first inhabitants of this area. It’s a beautiful thing to look back and see now that we’re paying homage to them before we forget,” Hawa told Your Local Journal.

Chief Lazore said it was a great feeling to have been invited to participate in the inauguration. “It’s awesome. It’s good relationship and partnership building. It’s my first time here. I didn’t know this tree was planted here. It recognizes our way of life and keeps a good path going. I feel great about that,” said Lazore.

Special significance

For Young and Rosen who participated in the tree planting ceremony 12 years earlier, the event holds special meaning. “I go to the park often and know its significance because I was there when it was planted. The plaque now states its significance. It’s a demonstration of good will to our local indigenous community, Kahnawake. People from Kanehsatake will be happy to see it too,” said Young.

Rosen said he was honoured to be back on site to see how large the white pine had grown. White pines commonly grow more than 100 feet tall at full maturity. “Tree Canada has planted 82 million trees since 1992 but not all of them have as much significance as the one today,” said Rosen.

“Thanks to Councillor Young, it was in the spirit of reconciliation to make sure they involved the people of Kahnawake. This was traditional Mohawk territory so we made sure they were involved in 2005. We provided the original grant for the planting of this tree and many other trees within Ste. Anne’s. It speaks to the power of trees to bring people together,” Rosen added.

Spirit of reconciliation

For Kelley, the event is a continuing process undertaken by many municipalities to reach out to the many diverse indigenous communities throughout the province to bring people together through a spirit of reconciliation.

“Reconciliation is a series of small but significant gestures,” said Kelley. “Many municipalities across Quebec are offering gestures by assigning recognition, respect and friendship agreements. Each one in and of itself is a small gesture but when you start to add them all together, what we’re trying to do is build respect and break down prejudices. Today’s event adds to that.”

The plaque is written in English, French and Mohawk in order to pay tribute to members of the Mohawk Nation who study at John Abbott College and McGill University in Ste. Anne’s. The inauguration is part of a larger project to raise awareness about significant historical events in Ste. Anne’s by installing interpretation plaques throughout the city.

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