NAIT has begun construction on a new flag plaza that will display seven flags important to the institution’s vision and commitments. The new plaza will now display the Treaty 6 and Métis flag, in addition to two NAIT flags, a Canadian flag, a province of Alberta flag and a city of Edmonton flag. The plaza, which will replace the current flags outside of South Lobby, will be located on the corner of 106 street and Princess Elizabeth Avenue.
The conversation to create a new flagpole came after concerns were raised during Pride Week of 2022 about why NAIT wasn’t displaying a pride flag. “That led to a whole conversation with executives about our flag poles and the flags that we want to display as an institution,” said Madlen Christianson, Manager of NAIT’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The project was funded through NAIT’s Strategic Initiatives Fund, which funds initiatives the executives believe are important to the strategic future and direction of the institution.
Christianson explained that the current flagpole setup was limiting; there were only three flagpoles, so it didn’t allow NAIT to display the flags they felt important based on the institution’s strategic commitment. Christianson and Derek Thunder, manager of the Nîsôhkamâtotân Centre, then began discussing how they could change the flag plaza to better represent NAIT.
“Initially we proposed five, because we wanted to be able to display the Treaty 6 and Métis flag, and then we landed on seven because of the significance of seven in terms of indigenous culture,” said Christianson.
The flags represent a public declaration of NAIT’s commitment to Truth and Reconciliation and NAIT’s Aboriginal strategy, Connecting the Four Directions. Thunder called the flag plaza an “important step for NAIT.”
“Alongside land acknowledgements, it’s an opportunity for NAIT to recognize our location on Treaty 6 territory and honour the First Nations and Métis people who have called this land their home for time immemorial,” he said in a staff announcement post.
Having seven poles also allows NAIT to more easily raise flags that might be important to the community, which Christianson said they’re looking into. NAIT raised the Progressive Pride flag during this year’s Pride Week, and Christianson said although the ceremony was small, it had an impact.
“The feedback and input that we received from the queer community about having that flag raised was really impactful and meaningful for them,” she explained. “Although flags seem like small symbols, I mean it’s a piece of fabric ultimately, but it is a recognized symbol of NAIT’s commitment to these communities.”
Construction is ongoing, but NAIT is tentatively planning for a flag raising ceremony on September 21 to coincide with Aboriginal Culture Day. The initial hope had been for the flag raising to happen in June, which is both Pride month and National Indigenous History month. When project timelines didn’t allow for that, they pivoted.
“Because really the purpose of building a new flag plaza was to allow us to raise the Treaty 6 and Métis flag, then it would make sense to do the raising as part of the main celebration of Aboriginal Culture Day,” said Christianson.
Students and staff will be invited to the flag raising ceremony as the date approached.
Cover image: Digital rendering of the new flag plaza. Photo supplied