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First Nations University (Canada)

Last modified: 2013-07-24 by rob raeside
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[First Nations University] image contributed by Ron Lahav, 7 December 2006


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Background Information

The First Nations University is located in Regina, Saskatchewan, and is loosely affiliated to the University of Regina. It could well be that it is displayed on a form of white gonfalon or vertical banner, which is very much a Native American custom. However, in the absence of any substantiating information, I would class this as a possible university flag. In any event, while the logo does appear on the university website; a clearer image can be seen at the University of Regina website.

The university was established to provide secondary education to Native Americans in Saskatchewan within their own cultural milieu, and this is reflected in the university logo/flag. It consists of a Native American war shield, circular in shape, with external and internal borders in black. The shield is divided into four distinct colors, white, gold, red, and blue, each separated from another by short vertical bars. The field of the central image is white, and is charged by a b&w line drawing of the right profile of a Native American chief in full war bonnet. The thin black block letters SIFC are written below the image; they represent the former name of the institution, Saskatchewan Indian Federated College. Five white eagle feathers tipped in black are suspended from the bottom of the shield. which in actuality resembles very closely a medieval European target. In Native Indian tradition, each such feather represents an enemy warrior killed in battle. My informant reports that the university tradition states that these eagle feathers represent five former Premiers of Saskatchewan. Above and below the logo itself are two short black horizontal lines; the bottom line is interrupted by the top of the shield. Beneath these lines are three lines of text: the first two contain the name of the university in black sans serif block lettering, while the bottom line reads 'of Canada' in somewhat smaller black block lettering.

In doing some further research, not excluding classic American Western movies, especially those about George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Big Horn, and I now confess that this may be a "flag". I refer to these classic films because while Hollywood may often play fast and loose with the major historical aspects of a story, they can usually be relied upon to get the little things right, including uniform details and sometimes even heraldry and flags.

Basically, what I have found is that many Native American peoples, especially those commonly referred to as Plains Indians, used what might in fact be termed 'flagoids' for want of a better term in the form of what might be called rank standards. Chiefs and important warriors would usually be accompanied or preceded by a 'brave' or tribal warrior, often a son or close male relative of the chief, carrying a native lance. Hanging from the tip of the lance would be a round circular target, usually consisting of bird feathers of various hues attached to a circular surface of hide. In most cases these feathers would be the actual colors of the birds, but in some cases the feathers would be dyed.

These feathers would be affixed to the hide so as to form different patterns; the various branches of the Sioux Nation (e.g, Lakota, Oglalla, etc) would feature an outer circle in different colors, with the position of the bearer within tribal society indicated by the topmost color. Given that the FNU shield has white as its topmost color I would suggest that this color signified the highest ranking chief or warrior, as this color signifies the primacy of the university with regard to Native American education within Canada. The central image of the shield, which in size closely resembled the target of medieval Europe, although the flimsy details of its construction precluded its use for defensive purposes, would generally contain various totemic or clan symbols.

It would appear then that the emblem used by the FNU may not actually be a flag as modern Vex might understand it, but would certainly be understood as a symbol of rank by Native Americans and thus fall into the general category of a rank standard. Given the primacy of the institution with regard to the education of Native Americans in Canada, it is understandable that the white color would be be uppermost in the arrangement of colors in the outer ring of the target and that the emblem might well be carried on the tip of a lance carried by someone connected with the university (e g a student, staff member, lecturer, etc) in an academic procession..
Ron Lahav, 7 December 2006