Palestinian flag flying over Natoaganeg First Nation in New Brunswick

A ceremony was held at Natoaganeg First Nation [formerly Eel Ground] in New Brunswick last week to hoist the Palestinian flag over the community’s school in support of children currently caught in the middle of fighting between Israel and Hamas.

Asiya Johnson, 6, helped raise the flag.

“I like raising the flag because when people are getting hurt in Gaza that means it’s important to raise the flag,” said Johnson who is in Grade 1.

According to the United Nations, nearly 30,000 Gazans have been killed since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7 – a third of them are children according to the Gaza Health ministry Another 1.7 million people have been displaced because of Israeli attacks and more than 70,000 homes have been destroyed.

A statement released by several agencies tied to the United Nations called for an immediate cease-fire on Wednesday among other demands.

“In the less than five months that followed the brutal 7 October attacks and the ensuing escalation, tens of thousands of Palestinians – mostly women and children – have been killed and injured in the Gaza Strip,” said the statement. “More than three quarters of the population have been forced from their homes, many multiple times, and face severe shortages of food, water, sanitation and healthcare – the basic necessities to survive.”

Dr. Zayd Cajee, an emergency room physician in Miamichi, New Brunswick, just east of Natoaganeg, reached out to Natoaganeg Chief George Ginnish about raising the flag.

“My love for children, my love for my children and if I love my children I can only assume other parents love their children,” Cajee told APTN News.

Cajee took note of a resolution at the last special chiefs assembly of the Assembly of First Nations in Ottawa.

“And that’s when it struck us with the AFN resolution that we are knocking on the wrong doors and there’s a powerful force in Canada who will allow us the avenue to express our humanity,” Cajee said.

The resolution called for a permanent ceasefire, an end to the occupation of Gaza, the liberation of all hostages, and recognize Palestinians as Indigenous people under international law. Littlechild encouraged the AFN to consider Indigenous rights at an international scope, joining the International Treaty Council and Sami Parliament of Norway who consider Palestinians as Indigenous people.

“I guess caring about the larger, the larger Indigenous community how can we support each other how can we show that we do care about what is going on,” said Ginnish. “You have a situation where you have an Indigenous people that are being forcibly removed from what was their traditional lands.”

On Oct. 7, the Islamist militant group Hamas attacked Israel killed 1,200 and took 253 hostages according to the Israeli government. Israel said that Hamas is still holding 100 people hostage.

Killa Atencio is an activist from Listuguj M’igmaq Nation who travelled from Halifax to support the flag raising.

“It was a proud moment as a Mi’kmaw person to see another Mi’kmaw person recognize and push forward this resolution so that we can demand a ceasefire,” said Atencio.

On social media, several Indigenous people have spoken out against the bombing of Gaza by Israeli forces.

Ellen Gabriel, from Kanesatake, was on the front lines of what is called the Oka Crisis when federal troops surrounded the Mohawk community west of Montreal. The Mohawks there were trying to stop the development of a golf course on a burial site and had blockaded the road leading into the community.

Gabriel is on social media daily with calls for action to stop the fighting including appealing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“Emergency Appeal from the people of #Gaza. The collapse of the healthcare system as Bombs continue to fall and the Veto power of a certain state to stop a #ceasefire In Gaza – please help,” Gabriel wrote on social media.

The event in Natoaganeg brought Mi’kmaw community members and Palestinian people together – including Laila Abuamer and Maryam Mohommad who both travelled from Fredericton.

“This is huge at a time where we can’t raise our flag in our own cities to see it being raised here was very emotional very healing,” said Abuamer. “And with seeing everything that’s been going on for the last four months I think we get numb as some points this kind of touched a very deep wound.”

Ginnish said the Palestinian flag will fly until Sept. 30, 2024 – Orange Shirt Day.

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