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A symbol of reconciliation: New First Nations Peace Monument unveiled

 A symbol of reconciliation: New First Nations Peace Monument unveiled

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12/8/2017      

 

​On a June day during the War of 1812, a contingent of Mohawk warriors under Chief John Norton encamped in DeCew’s Field met Canadian heroine Laura Secord late in her walk. Together, they helped change the course of Canadian history.

Secord’s 32-kilometre journey from her home in Queenston to DeCew House in present-day Thorold to warn colonial British forces of an impending American invasion is well known. But the resident First Nations allies played an important role and helped Secord relay the message to the British. Following her warning, a contingent of warriors from Kahnawake, the Grand River and other First Nations, bravely secured the victory at the Battle of Beaver Dams, arguably changing the course of the war that defined Canada.

More than 200 years later, this historic encounter and the heroic actions of the First Nations warriors are being remembered in a new monument at DeCew House Heritage Park.

World-renowned Blackfoot architect and activist Douglas Cardinal.
World-renowned Blackfoot architect and activist Douglas Cardinal.

​Spearheaded by the Friends of Laura Secord community group, the First Nations Peace Monument was unveiled on Oct. 7, the 254th anniversary of the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which formed the basis of land claims of Indigenous peoples in Canada. The new monument stands as a symbol of reconciliation and recognition of the important role First Nations played, and continue to play, in Canada’s history.

OPG, which operates the nearby DeCew 1 and 2 Generating Stations, was the most recent steward of the DeCew House Heritage Park property where the monument resides before the company donated the site to the City of Thorold in 2011. OPG supported the monument, which was also funded by the Canadian government and other organizations and groups.

“History was made at this site,” said Caroline McCormick, President of Friends of Laura Secord. “The monument will serve as a permanent reminder of how early settlers and the resident First Nations galvanized their forces to defend a country still in its infancy – and the importance of recognizing that the promises of the covenants and treaties of that time need to be critically redressed and reconciled with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters of today.” 

Designed by world-renowned Blackfoot architect and human rights activist Douglas Cardinal, the First Nations Peace Monument was constructed using 22 tonnes of hand-carved limestone and finished in time to coincide with Canada’s 150th anniversary.

The circular structure consists of two curved walls that open to the east and the west, symbolizing traditional Iroquois longhouses, with a hearth and fire in the centre.

“The circle is a powerful symbol of welcoming, inclusion and protection,” Cardinal said. “It's important for First Nations people and the rest of Canadians to come together.”

Embedded within the walls of the monument are two wampum peace belts, one which expresses the Iroquois Great Law of Peace and another the restoration of peace and relations among First Nations allies and the British following the War of 1812.

"Canada wouldn't be Canada without the commitment of First Nations to defend this country," said Cardinal.

For more information on the monument, visit www.friendsoflaurasecord.com