Walks Far Woman by Sheena Muirhead Koops
This mixed media artwork began with the outline of a buffalo – offered by White Bear Education Complex teacher, Marylee Morrison Lees – and a hand full of red willow that I had picked, using local protocol, learning to make traditional tobacco, peeling back the red bark, harvesting a second layer of green bark. I added sage from my childhood pasture, gathered as taught by my Treaty relatives. I added cedar given to me in a woman’s sweat lodge by Jaclyn Yuzicappi. I added the tail end of a sweetgrass braid, gifted by Dakota and Anishinaabe educators in the Osseo Area Schools when visiting Minnesota with our Treaty Education Alliance Youth Leadership Team in the spring of 2023. I also added one strip of birch bark to honour that tree I used to visit on my way to White Bear, stopping to say a prayer of thanksgiving before entering the community. Learning more about Tatanka Oyate, the Buffalo Nation, from White Bear Elder Sara McArthur and remembering the Buffalo Treaty through Dr. Leroy Littlebear’s teaching and witnessing the individual and collective power of the buffalo artwork lining the hallways of White Bear Education Complex, I thought of my late Treaty relative, Keitha Brass, whose father was from Cote First Nation, while her mother was from Pasqua, the granddaughter of Pisqua, Treaty 4 signator. While I was first Treaty Walking and posting faithfully on my blog, Keitha had called me, Walks Far Woman, as I entered Fort Qu’Appelle’s Community Outreach. We were alone and Keitha’s grin shone like her purple runners that matched her purple bunnyhug. I knew she was teasing me, like you tease a little sister, but I knew she was also honouring me, because she always cheered me on as a big sister does. This artwork became aspirational for me as I contemplated the buffalo matriarch as the true Walks Far Woman, who cultivated the medicines with her hooves as she went about her lifeways, always in deep and spiritual ceremony with the other nations who relied on her sacrifice for their survival. Perhaps my late, big sister was inviting her little, white sister into a sacrificial life as I walk this land, continuing to benefit from broken promises, colonialism, and genocide. From my own sacred teachings, there was one calling in the wilderness, who prayed to decrease, himself, as the One who would suffer greatly increased. I will pray to be worthy of Keitha’s teasing and encouragement, listening to her calling Walks Far Woman on my long journey from privilege into sacrifice. Keitha’s smile reminds me of the irony, that the medicines under hoof smell sweet and the crocuses springing through the snow are fuzzy and purple. The land and my own sacred teachings call me to work, but also to rest, to soak it all in, and then my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. This is the way, walk in it.