FORT WILLIAM FIRST NATION – Raili Saarinen sees the raising of a pride flag outside the Fort William First Nation office as much more than just a symbolic act.
The rainbow coloured flag, designed by a community member, will fly permanently to honour the two-spirited community after being raised on Wednesday.
For Saarinen, having the flag present means acceptance and tolerance.
“We need our young kids to know that it’s OK,” Saarinen said. “That flag right there is going to save lives.”
The flag, which incorporates two spirits encompassed by one heart of arrows, was designed by Lorraine Bannon
The concept came naturally based on teachings from her mother-in-law about the special role two-spirited people played in Indigenous culture, Bannon said.
Among their responsibilities was to care for and raise orphaned children.
“It’s long due for them to get the recognition and acceptance of who they are and how they can fit in the community and that the community accepts them as equal members individually and as part of our community,” Bannon said.
Fort William First Nation chief Peter Collins said the flag serves as recognition of the contributions of their two-spirited people.
“We all have a special place and they have a special place in our communities. We cannot overlook them anymore. We must make sure they are part of our society,” Collins said.
“We have to make sure everybody is equal in our community and that’s what (Wednesday) is all about.”