On March 29, 1906, in Regina representatives of the Legislature, the Executive
and the Judiciary gathered to hear Lieutenant Governor Amédée Forget of
Saskatchewan acknowledge the expressions of welcome into the Canadian Federation
that were received from Ottawa and the other provincial Legislatures.
He then noted that the continued and rapid settlement of Western Canada
was most gratifying and that his government would encourage and assist
in every way possible those who are seeking homes in our midst. No reference
was made to the First Nations who had previously lived on the land nor
to the treaties that made land available for settlement. By contrast the
ceremony that marked the 100th anniversary of the first session was replete
with references to the contribution of aboriginals to the history and development
of Saskatchewan. This article outlines some of the highlights of the recent
With the traditional Cree word for welcome, Tansi, Speaker Myron Kowalsky
welcomed guests to the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly to mark the 100th
anniversary of the first opening. The Speaker's choice of language reflected
the central theme of the ceremony to honour the relationship between the
Legislature and the First Nations of the prairies.
The day's events began with a sweet grass pipe ceremony on the floor of
the Chamber attended by the Speaker and other invited guests. This event
was intended to sanctify the Chamber in anticipation of the celebration
taking place later that morning. The pipe ceremony itself followed the
ceremonial practices of the Cree Elder who led it. Pipe ceremonies are
observed in many First Nations cultures and, while there are elements common
in all, each ceremony will reflect the individual preferences, practices
and heritage of the Elder leading it.
Participants in the ceremony were seated in a circle on the floor of the
Chamber. Men occupied the inner circle while women sat in the outer circle.
This reflected the belief of the Cree that women are as powerful as the
pipe and that their presence in the outer circle enables them to act as
supporters of the pipe and the ceremony. Additionally, the Cree believe
that a woman's power exceeds that of a man due to their power to give life.
Accordingly men must raise themselves to meet a woman's position by sitting
in the inner circle, offering prayers and smoking a pipe.
During the ceremony, the pipe was passed around the circle four times while
participants offered prayers and personal stories. Everyone in the circle
was smudged with sweetgrass. Throughout the ceremony, a drumming group
located in a corner of the Chamber floor performed.
The mace runner presentation ceremony began with the grand entry of the
official party and special guests. The entrance of each guest was announced
by Chief Helen Ben of the Meadow Lake Tribal Council and Legislative Assembly
Clerk Gwenn Ronyk, who shared master of ceremony duties.
The procession was led by Lieutenant Governor Lynda Haverstock and her
husband, Harley Olsen. Speaker Kowalsky and Chief Alphonse Bird of the
Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) entered next side by side,
preceded by the Sergeant at Arms carrying the mace and the Staff Carrier
with the Eagle Staff. Premier Lorne Calvert, Leader of the Official Opposition
Brad Wall and Treaty Commissioner Judge David Arnot completed the official
The grand entry continued with First Nations elders, veterans, chiefs,
the artist Florence Highway, representatives of the Judiciary and Members
of the Legislative Assembly entering the Chamber and greeting the official
party. Each guest then joined the receiving line and greeted subsequent
guests as they passed by. Throughout the procession, drummers played the
Grand Entry Song.
The presentation ceremony commenced with greetings from the Crown, the
FSIN and the Treaty Commissioner. Lieutenant Governor Haverstock spoke
on the role played by the Crown in bringing the three elements of state
the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary together with the
First Nations. The Crown plays a further role as an enduring symbol of
constancy and of the ideals enshrined in the treaties. In illustrating
the longevity of these roles, Ms. Haverstock recalled the words spoken
by a predecessor, Lieutenant Governor Alexander Morris, who in 1874 as
the Crown's representative to the treaty negotiations stated:
The promises we have to make to you are not for to-day only, but for tomorrow.
and the promises we make will be carried out as long as the sun shines
and the water flows in the ocean.1
Chief Bird addressed the importance of having a symbol of the First Nations
in the Chamber of the Assembly. Referring to the mace runner and the cushion,
Chief Bird reminded the audience that they were
meant to represent
a foundation upon which the Crown's authority, as represented by the mace,
is able to be exercised.2 He then noted that while symbols were important
reminders of the spirit and intent of the treaties, they could not replace
the need to implement the treaty provisions. The Treaties were the basis
upon which the First Nations and the settlers established a shared society
on the land in which both could live in harmony and with prosperity. Chief
Bird encouraged the Members of the Assembly to keep the obligations and
duties established by the treaties in mind when debating issues and passing
laws and to consider new ways to address the disparities that face the
people of the province.
The importance of the First Nation Treaties was also the subject of Judge
Arnot's remarks. The entire province of Saskatchewan is covered by Treaties
4, 5, 6, 8 and 10. Judge Arnot stressed that all citizens are treaty people.
The ability of immigrants to settle on the land, and exercise their treaty
right to do so, was made possible by negotiating treaties with the First
Nations who previously occupied the territory. Judge Arnot also spoke
of hope the hope expressed by the signatories to the treaties on what
the future might hold and the hope he had as a treaty commissioner that
the First Nations, the treaties and the treaty relationship would take
their rightful place in the Canadian state.
Unveiling of Mace Runner and Cushion
Florence Highway was then invited to unveil the mace runner and cushion
with Chief Bird.3
Together they presented the articles to the Lieutenant
Governor who accepted them on behalf of the Crown. She transmitted them
to the Speaker who placed them at the end of the Table with the assistance
of Premier Calvert and Mr. Wall. The Sergeant-at-Arms then placed the mace
on the runner and cushion for the first time.
The gift of a runner and cushion upon which the mace will rest during all
sittings of the Assembly will serve as a permanent reminder of the on-going
role played by First Nations in the history of the province.
The beaded moose hide runner is entitled Treaties Forever and incorporates
traditional symbols, craftsmanship and materials. In aboriginal teachings,
the Creator gave gifts to man for his nourishment and sustenance. These
gifts are represented by the sun, grass and river. The everlasting presence
of the sun, grass and flowing river are also representative of the eternal
commitment made in the treaties that their provisions would be forever
The use of moose hide material as the backing of the runner is indicative
of the importance played by the moose in the daily life of the northern
First Nations peoples. Similar to the sustenance provided by the bison
in the south, the moose provided food, clothing, shelter, tools and crafts
to northern aboriginals.
The head of the mace will rest upon a cushion made of beaver pelt backed
by moose hide. The use of a beaver pelt is symbolic of the important role
played by the trading of furs in forging a relationship between First Nations
and European settlers and in the expansion of settlement westward. The
beaver symbol can also be found in the carved moldings over the Members'
entrances to the Chamber and on the Mace itself. A braid of moose hide
surrounds the cushion to symbolize a braid of sweetgrass. In the culture
of the prairie First Nations, sweetgrass is ceremonially burned to establish
a connection with the Creator. Traditional teachings on the brotherhood
of man are represented by the beaded tassels attached to the four corners
of the cushion and in the intermixing of red, black, yellow and white beads
in each tassel.
Premier Calvert was the first to express his appreciation of the gifts
on the occasion of the Legislature's first opening. He acknowledged the
contribution of Joan Beatty, the first aboriginal woman to sit in the provincial
cabinet and the individual who first highlighted the need for First Nations
symbolism in the Chamber. Describing the treaties as foundational agreements,
he stated that the presence of the runner and cushion would forever serve
as a reminder to all who work in or visit the Assembly of the historic
role First Nations people and the treaties have played in the creation
of the province. In concluding his remarks, Premier Calvert noted the significance
of the river and sun on the runner the name Saskatchewan was taken from
the Cree word for swift flowing waters while the sun was the everlasting
symbol of life. It was his hope that the sun continue to shine on the
province and the people of Saskatchewan, and may this land of swift-flowing
waters be a land for all.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Wall, spoke next. He summarized some
of the themes of the first Throne Speech praise for the 26 million bushels
of wheat threshed the previous fall, grants of railway charters, the starting
of public libraries and other issues of the day. He then lamented the absence
of any mention of the First Nations, or the treaties that forged the ties
between the crown, settlers and the original inhabitants of the land. Mr.
Wall drew upon a statement by Bono that claimed that every age has its
moral blind spots when he described the treatment afforded the First Nations
over the province's first century. The acceptance of the runner and cushion,
in his view, would serve as a reminder of the need to respect those who
have too often been overlooked and to formally address the moral blind
spot in the province's history.
Speaker Kowalsky concluded the ceremony by thanking those able to attend.
He drew special attention to the representatives from the Manitoba, Northwest
Territories, and Nunavut Assemblies, areas that with Alberta were at one
time part of the Northwest Territories.4
1. Quote taken from the verbatim transcript of the ceremony prepared by
the Hansard Branch of the Legislative Assembly.
2. Quote taken from the verbatim transcript of the ceremony prepared by
the Hansard Branch of the Legislative Assembly.
3. The mace runner and cushion were designed and created by Florence Highway
of Pelican Narrows. Ms. Highway is a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree
Nation of Northern Saskatchewan and was immersed in her aboriginal heritage
through her mother, Maggie. Ms. Highway learned the Cree language and
the arts of beading and birch bark biting as a child and has returned to
re-explore these crafts as an adult.
4. This historic event was broadcast live on the Saskatchewan Legislative
Network. The proceedings will be used in educational material by the Office
of the Treaty Commissioner. Further information may be viewed on the website
of the Legislative Assembly, at: