Saturday, April 1, 2017

Frog Moon Cafe

ayiki-pisim is frog moon in nêhiyawêwin  
for the month of April
today I am remembering
the Frog Moon Café
four years ago
we sang, laughed, cried, listened
maybe it's time
for another

Poster by Jessie Stueck

read Sue's blogpost
frog moon magic
thank you Sue
for all you do

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Since We Last Met

Since we last met, my Treaty Walk has been like a reality tv show and now I'm waiting for an editor to come along and help me pull out clips to tell the story.

Perhaps to get started the editor would ask the question, "What is a Treaty Walk?"

I might reply. A treaty walk is like going to the garden -- back in the days when I lived at home and going to the garden meant fighting my way through Dad's long rows of corn, squash, pumpkin, beans, peas, swiss chard, carrots, beats, and potatoes -- and picking something from the earth. A treaty walk is like taking that good gift from the land and preparing it for my own nourishment or to share with others.

"All well and good," says the editor. "Can you tell me more? How about completing some of these prompts?"

One highlight I've experienced with my Treaty Walk is...

One assumption for me in working with Treaty Education is...

The most important thing for me on my Treaty Walk is...

My most awkward moment Treaty Walking since we last met is...

Yesterday, I tell the editor, I experienced a highlight on my Treaty Walks. We shared an Orange Shirt Gathering at our school. One of my adult students, Michael Cardinal, in Oski-pimohtahtamwak otayisīniwiwaw (they are into their new journey to knowledge) closed our gathering playing Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" because the sun will shine after the rain or storm, he told us.  

One assumption for me in working in Treaty Education is that it is easy for educators to understand how important it is to show up at events where indigenous peoples are offering us gifts, Treaty gifts of miyowîcêhtowin (getting along together); pimâcihowin (making a living on the land); wîtaskêwin (being one with the land) and wâhkôhtowin (practicing our kinship). For example, bringing students to the Treaty Four Gathering in Fort Qu'Appelle, in the week of September 15 each year, should be easy. I see now, this is an assumption, but it does get easier, I'd like to tell people. Once you've been there once, you'll understand how to come back the next time. But the first thing is to just go, is to show up, as I remember Dr. Shawneen Pete and Dr. Mike Cappello reminding us at the 2014 SAFE conference. Sheena August, Prairie Valley School Division communications officer, and I had great discussions about the importance of experiencing something before understanding. Sheena (we had so much fun being two Sheena's) got right into the spirit of things, working with Arwen to get the tipi pole back in the flap as she had been shown to do earlier, if it slipped out.

The most important thing for me on my Treaty Walks is to remember that Treaty is about relationships, and relationships need opportunity, time, nurturing, sunlight, rain, and wind to grow. Treaty Walking is not a checklist of activities on a bucket list. It is going about regular life, being mindful of the great gifts and opportunities envisioned in the Treaties. I'm thinking about running into Daya Madhur and Claire Krueger at the Treaty Four Gathering, and there they were, going about their lives, huge smiles, cameras slung around their necks, backpacks ready for a day on the land as Treaty people, as Treaty educators.

My most awkward moment since we last met... oh there are so many. It might have been trying to get a good picture of His Excellency David Johnson, Governor General of Canada as he visited Treaty Four Grounds for the first time in his life, and was the first representative of the Queen to return to meet with the crown's treaty partners in 142, since the Treaty was signed. I had to dodge security, media, well-wishers, and handlers. I did get a few with him talking with my friend, Maddie Sanderson. I also helped arrange that my husband, Michael's grade 12 Canadian Studies class was able to witness the nation to nation speeches and meeting, but that wasn't really awkward. Now I'm just bragging.

"Well, now I have something to work with," says the editor. "But what about our next episode? Let's do an A-Z brainstorm for Treaty Walks."


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Feast Kit for Monday Afternoon

Imagine spending the afternoon sitting on a blanket and enjoying time with women, or if you're a guy, sitting with other men, and sharing a meal, served by young men in our community. Imagine this circle, together as Treaty people, accepting the gifts we have to offer one another as good neighbours.

If you've never been to a traditional feast before, why not join us on Monday at noon, on the Treaty Four grounds.
  • Bring some food to share. One of the following would be great: soup, fruit, bannock, juice boxes (please deliver by 11:45 to the announcer’s booth set up area).
  • Bring a feast kit: carry away bag, multiple size plastic containers or jars with lids (for eating and take away), spoon, fork, knife, serviettes, plate, wipes if you like.
  • Blanket to sit on or a chair if you are elderly or unable to sit on the ground. 
  • Women, wear long skirts or wrap around and do not sit crossed legged, but with knees to the side.
  • Selected young men will serve the food until it is all distributed.
  • Women sit together on one side and men sit together on the other side.
  • Women on their cycle (moon time) are asked to sit outside the circle to respect their power.
Here's a picture of my feast bag:

  • Carry away bag,
  • multiple size plastic containers or
  • jars with lids for (for eating and take away),
  • spoon,
  • fork,
  • knife,
  • serviettes,
  • plate, and
  • wipes if you like.
  • Blanket to sit on.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Empowering Women: Weaving Stories, Inspiring Action

  • To listen to stories of families directly affected by Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
  • To weave stars in honour of Treaty Four women to add to the One Million Stars to End Violence Project.
  • To generate ideas to send to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Monday, September 12th
Large Teepee at the Treaty 4 Governance Centre
Fort Qu'Appelle, SK
Appetizers by the Sioux Chef
All Welcome by invitation of the
Faculty of Education at the University of Regina.
Come for the Feast at Noon.
Relax the afternoon away in the valley.
Join us for Monday evening's conversation. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Analyze the Overall Effectiveness of the Blanket Exercise Presentation: ECS Students Reflect

For Aboriginal Storytelling month last February, four students from Bert Fox Community High School were invited to the Estevan Comprehensive School to present the Blanket Exercise which tells the history of Canada through the voices of indigenous peoples. The blankets represent the land and participants play the role of sovereign indigenous peoples. The facilitators play the role of Europeans who first come to the land as friends, but as the power begins to shift, and Treaties are broken, assimilation and colonization become a reality.
Tim Lee and James Jones, teachers at the Estevan Comp, assigned reflection questions. This is the last of five questions asked.

Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation.
  • The presentation is both visual and verbal. That's twice the effectiveness.
  • The overall effectiveness of this presentation was that it makes you stop and think about how we never hear about what happened to the Aboriginal peoples. Kind of like it's Canada's dirty little secret.
  • The presentation was an eye opening experience.
  • To me this presentation was very effective. Many people are visual learners and learn by being involved. This is what made the presentation so effective. After being involved I have become more aware of how poorly First Nations were treated. With the Blanket Exercise it made it clear that they were pushed off the land and sent to Residential Schools. By standing on the blankets and having them become smaller as the years went on shows the little room they had.
  • They could have read slower.
  • I think the presentation had a large affect on those who listened and cared. However, I think quite a few didn't care and weren't interested at all, and in those people the presentation fell on deaf ears. In everyone else, myself included, it educated us about the feelings of the First Nations. No other devices used to teach at schools can make you feel what it would even slightly have been like, and the blanket exercise did. That feeling of understanding makes you care more about it, and when you care about a topic, it makes you want to learn about it, to do something about it. And that's what I think this presentation made people do, care.
  • To me the overall effectiveness was great because everyone was mature, everyone was in a serious stage, listening to what actually happened in our world, maybe not our lifetime, but our grandparents and even parents. Racism was a big thing to the Aboriginal peoples and it is still going on today. It was hard to hear some of their stories, but in general, they got through it and made us more aware of what was going on around us. They were very educated about the topic. They genuinely cared about the topic and showed that they wanted to get their story out to us. They were passionate and well educated about their topic. They got their point across very well by using hands on activities and I was more into it because it was hands on and not reading from a textbook.
  • Very well thought out. They were well prepared, rehearsed a lot. You could tell because they had lots of writing on their scripts. It would be effective for grade eights because it was powerful. They were not scared to yell and get the point across. I give them credit for doing the presentation in front of three classes of kids their same age.
  • Overall it was about a 4 out of 5. It does teach you a thing or two, but in my opinion, all Native Study activities are focused around the same thing. Though this was by far the most interesting and interactive presentation I have attended. there's lots of people that need to be included in order to learn, and I feel that this is a very good teaching method, especially at a high school level. It's also effective because those who were presenting were of the same age group which was nice for a change. Much better than a corpse talking for a droning hour.
  • I felt that the presentation was very effective as it caused me to critically think about what I could do to inspire action. It made me also realize how ignorant I can be about cultures other than my own. I also felt that the fact that the presenters were youth like us made the presentation more effective. It made it easier to understand as well as easier to relate to. I also felt that since the presenters were our age, I found that it was easier to pay attention to them as I understand how hard it is to stand in front of a group of peers and present. Lastly, I found that the use of visuals in the presentation made the information easier to understand.
  • Overall, the presentation was amazing in the sense of effectiveness! The fact that they had us participate not only as standing on the blankets being "natives" but they also had us read scrolls about the history of it all. They engaged us very well and really helped us visualize how traumatic and REAL the situations were. I took in a lot of knowledge that I hadn't known prior to the presentation and the fact that they were all our age made it even better. I wouldn't change a thing about the presentation.
  • If the girls made us sit on the bleachers and listen to them talk, then I can assure you that most people would be on their phones. The girls seemed to be very passionate on the subject because as they said, it's our shared history. I can tell that our presenters really did enjoy doing this.
  • I think the overall effectiveness of the presentation was moderate. For people, such as myself, who are uncomfortable in tight groups of people, I found myself unable to maintain focus as I was too busy trying not to bump into someone. I believe that getting the audience involved is a great idea, however, many people are unwilling to speak in front of their peers and because of this, I was unable to hear what people were reading off of the scrolls. Other than those two points, the presentation was effective. I understood what information I received.
  • The overall effectiveness was very powerful in different ways like when they gave me the baby, and I held it for a while, then they took it away. I felt a bit sad. If that were my real baby, and it got taken away, I'd be heartbroken. Everything that they read actually happened (not to them necessarily) but to their people. We learned that just because it didn't happen to us doesn't mean it didn't effect us in a way. Considering it was presented by our peers made it more understandable from their perspectives.
  • I think the Blanket Exercise was very effective because it went over a lot of information in a short amount of time. They used information that was easy to understand. They had everyone participate and play a role. The only thing I didn't like was how fast they spoke and I couldn't really understand them sometimes.
  • The presentation was extremely effective. One of the major ways it was effective was it was done by grade elven and twelve students. It wasn't just someone rambling on and on. We were asked to participate, too. When they began to make the blankets smaller you started to really see and feel first hand what they went through. It almost made you realize your "life was at risk" to be kicked off the blankets and "die". After the presentation the leaders were able to speak and the girl in my group was able to share some of her own experiences as part Aboriginal. That really shows that you can't judge a book by it's cover. Overall the presentation was just awesome to experience.
  • This presentation is effective because you don't sit for an hour and listen to facts. You are moving around and acting out the things that actually happened. You see what happened and you get a very clear picture of it because they put you in their shoes and move you around and take land and then send you away and take babies then all of a sudden people die off. As well they were very passionate about the topic. They made you play along and play a part in it to help you learn and understand. They were always moving around and walking around the circle.
  • The presentation was a lot different than I expected it. I expected us to just sit on the blanket and listen to stories told by grade 12's. Instead, we were included in the presentation and got to read the Treaties and the laws that the European's implemented on the Aboriginals. We were given papers, and when you had a certain colour paper you could be killed by smallpox or other disease brought by Europeans. Many were killed and their children (baby dolls) were taken to Residential School. I believe that grade 12 students presented this to us gave it more of a personalized feeling. You were yelled at  by one of the girls pretending to be a European and it actually scared you a little. It was nice having it put into a real situation, not just having it read to you. This way you got to partake in the storytelling and it was really enjoyable. It was serious and yet intriguing, waiting to find out who dies next. Personally, I don't think it would be as effective on elementary (6, 7, 8) grades because they aren't mature enough to understand the seriousness of the situation. The language is harder and it could need to be adapted to their form of understanding. I believe that the presentation was very effective and influenced a great deal of the group.
  • This was a very effective presentation. It gave us a chance to participate and a small chance to see what it was like. It was also good to see that it was people our age presenting, proving that we can make a difference and pass this information along and make the future better.
  • I believe that the presentation was effective because it got us involved and made us see how poorly First Nations were treated. It opened my eyes to see how the people were treated and made me think of ways to fix our relationships.
  • The effectiveness of the presentation is actually quite a bit. It's not making me go out and donating money to First Nations people, but it really puts our past into perspective. Although it's not nearly as intense as it would have been for when it happened, but it is at a nice scale where people can take it in and realize what happened. The Blanket Exercise is something I will never forget and when people ask about what happened in our nation's past it will now be easier to explain and easier for them to learn.
There were a few sheets with comments like, "We could have learned more in class. It was a normal presentation to me. Honestly, I learned nothing. None of it was emotional to me. This did not inspire me. Some of it may inspire and others it may not. It didn't really have any effect on me."
But as you can see from the responses above, it was overwhelmingly well-received and an optimum educational experience for all involved.
Note. Excerpts from the ECS reflections on the Blanket Exercise can be found on Treaty Walks question by question on the following dates:
1. What was your general impression or thoughts about the Blanket Exercise? Did you enjoy participating? August 14th, 2016
2. What did you learn from Friday's presentation? August 23rd, 2016
3. What was the most emotional moment for you? Why was it emotional? Consider the speaker's values, perspective, biases and tone. August 29th, 2016
4. The Blanket Exercise is designed to inspire action. How could an event like this inspire people? What could we do? September 2nd, 2016
5. Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation. September 9th, 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Just Like Our Grandmother: Help from Elder Alma

Truth, Jerrett (JJ), Sebastian (Shorty), Sheena, and Ashton with Elder Alma

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Truth. "I learned a few things about sweetgrass and smudging, and what you're supposed to do with it after you're done using it. You take all the ashes and put them somewhere in your environment that's really quiet. I felt really good and happy when Elder Alma was with us because of the sudden deaths we have experienced. I will remember our class because it's the best class I've had so far. When Elder Alma said her own language, it made me feel like everyone should learn their own language. She reminded me of my grandmother. She's exactly the same, I think."

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Jerrett. "I learned a lot of different things that day about Residential school, my culture, and not only just my culture. She said a lot about the Europeans and such, meanings about life and it was a pretty good feeling to have."

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Shorty. "I learned about certain medicine, how to treat them, and how to thank them after you are done using them. I felt comfortable when we spoke with her as if she was my own grandmother. I will remember all the stories she told us and the teachings she left with us. She reminded me of my grandmother who passed away, just how sweet she was, along with her wise words."

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Sheena. "Since the beginning of the school year, we have learned of three deaths of former colleagues. One of the women worked very closely with some of us, and we were looking forward to working with her this year. The other woman and her husband had worked with many of us, closely, in the past. Our school is grieving, so Elder Alma agreed to come and help us in this difficult time. She led a smudge and a talking circle for any staff or students who wanted to participate. She came back with us to our room. I'll always remember how she told the young men that she was so proud of them, that they were like her grandsons. She said that when older people see young people, so respectful, learning what they need to learn, that they make the old people so happy."

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Ashton. "I was actually grateful to her for teaching us how to handle the sweet grass and sage after we were done. It reminded me back in the days when she used to teach me Cree. She asked me to read some Cree words, and I kind of got it. It was very good to see her again, because I haven't seen her in a while. After the smudge, it made me feel more open minded. It made me feel good."