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Indigenous remains return home to Kahnawake

Montreal mayor Valerie Plante continued to show the city’s dedication to reconciliation in returning Mohawk remains to Kahnawake in a ceremony at City Hall in the Old Port.

Reconciliation seemed to be the key word last Thursday during National Indigenous Peoples Day, when Valerie Plante, mayor of Montreal, announced that the city would return to Kahnawake the Indigenous skeletal remains they’ve held in possession for proper burial.

The request for the release of the remains was made by the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake and was a “valid request,” said Plante.

The remains were found by the city during municipal work and date back as old as 4,000 years ago, said Plante.

The process of returning the remains will take a year, as the city is intent on having them studied and finding a best solution for both parties during the handover.

Joe Norton, the MCK grand chief who was in attendance during press conference near city hall, said that this announcement has helped dispel previous ‘academic’ thought and has given proper acknowledgement that the Mohawks have lived on this territory for thousands of years prior to European colonization.

Plante also committed to two other promises that included funding for a new cultural centre for First Nations of Quebec and Labrador, in collaboration with DestiNATIONS, and a promise to host a summit with First Nation leaders from across Quebec on August 30.

“Montreal is a beautiful city that has been doing a lot of steps to recognize the Indigenous heritage on this land,” said Odile Joannette, ambassador for DestiNATIONS, during a celebratory event held at the old port Thursday.

Plante has committed to giving 10 per cent of the funds to build the infrastructure, while the remaining costs could potentially be the responsibility of the provincial and federal governments.

“So it is our friends at the Quebec and Canada levels to commit to what this will represent for our healing, our reconciliation, our co-creation of tomorrow, together with all nations and all peoples,” said Joannette.

“I really want this space within the years to come to start building a beautiful infrastructure where we’ll all be able to celebrate our unity together and Indigenous people will be able to express their pride and be able to share it with all Montrealers, Quebecers and Canadians,” said Joannette.

Norton praised the reforms being implemented and carried out by Plante.

“The people of the city, as well as the province, needs to know that the leadership is supporting and backing the Native peoples,” said Norton.

He hopes that the leadership shown in Montreal will help diminish the stereotypical and racist thoughts often associated with Indigenous people.

“We are contributors. We are people who work diligently. We can work with anybody and everybody,” said Norton.

Norton has also said he had met with Plante last week and discussed ways of better increasing tourism in Kahnawake, and participating in culture exchanges between Indigenous people and Montrealers.

“We’ll survive whether they do, whether they don’t. That’s the way it’s been, but hopefully in the coming generations, the relationship will develop and it will get better for everyone,” said Norton.

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