The chiefs of the Four Nations of Maskwacis were among those honoured Dec. 14, with Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee medals for their contributions to the papal visit this past summer.
Pope Francis made a historical “pilgrimage of penance” to Canada, choosing Maskwa Park in Maskwacis as the site where he’d give an official apology on behalf of the Catholic church to all residential school survivors on July 25.
Eleven recipients, including the chiefs, elders and other organizers and supporters, were recognized at a ceremony held in a conference room at the Fantasyland Hotel, receiving the medals from the Lt. Governor of Alberta, the Hon. Salma Lakhani.
“It is deeply moving to be honoured in this capacity. Each recipient is incredibly deserving — they each showed strength, determination, compassion and resiliency throughout the planning and implementation of the apology and visits,” said Grand Chief George Arcand Jr. in a press release from the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. “I am humbled to be included among my respected peers to receive this honour.”
The recipients were:
• Elder Alma Desjarlais, Frog Lake First Nation;
• Elder Vicky Arcand, Alexander First Nation;
• Anne Wildcat, papal visit organizer, Ermineskin Cree Nation;
• Chief George Arcand Jr., Treaty Six grand chief and chief of Alexander First Nation;
• Chief Randy Ermineskin, Ermineskin Cree Nation;
• Chief Vernon Saddleback, Samson Cree Nation;
• Chief Leonard Standing on the road, Montana First Nation;
• Chief Desmond Bull, Louis Bull Tribe;
• Chief Tony Alexis, Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation;
• Chief Greg Desjarlais, Frog Lake First Nation and
• Shani Gwin, founder and CEO pipikwan pêhtâkwan.
“The chiefs and elders were recognized for welcoming the Pope to Treaty Six Territory and opening their communities to the world,” stated the release.
Wildcat was the main community organizer in Maskwacis and received the medal for “directing operations and ensuring the safety of the four host Nations during the apology.”
Gwin “led her team to create opportunities for First Nations survivors and leaders to safely tell their truths about the residential school systems on the world stage.”
The Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations was created in 1993 to serve as the united political voice for the First Nations of Treaty Six to protect the fundamental Treaty and human rights of First Nations Peoples.