Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Walks Far Woman

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.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Questions We Can Live By

Where will we be as a nation
on this road of truth
before reconciliation
in one year, less one week
as we live-into-a-second
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
on Orange Shirt Day, 2022? 

Maybe this is the wrong question.

From my own sacred teachings,
from Indigenous wisdom traditions on this land
I hear that today, right now 
is the only moment
we can embody and live.

What will we do today?

Will we share a glass of clean drinking water?
Will we visit someone who has lost his mother?
Will we remember the one who has lost her life-partner?
Will we remember those in jail?
Will we feed those who are hungry?
Will we clothe those who are without?
Will we take someone in?


Thursday, October 7, 2021

Letting the Light Shine Through

letting the light shine through
treaty 4 flag
as long as the sun glows
the river flows
the grasses grow

letting the light shinre through
every child matters flag
illuminating our darkness
with orange healing fire
handled with care

letting the light shine through
the Union Jack flag
exposing the crosses born in
England, Scotland, Ireland
settler colonialism afoot on this land

letting the light shine through
the Canada flag
settlers taking up the crosses bourn
by Treaty-relatives through broken promises
this is a truth that may lead to reconciliation

Photos taken in Fort Qu'Appelle, Treaty 4 Territory
September 30th, 2021
First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
All Nations Healing Hospital


Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Listening to Flags

when I walk or drive by these flags
they are always telling me a story

some days, when the wind is still
they scroll straight down
a colourful curl beside a silver pole

but today, on the first ever
National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
September 30th, 2021
I am driving by the 
All Nations Healing Hospital
and I step on the breaks
because I see a new flag
every child matters
waving orange promise in the wind

I park my husband's truck
on the edge of the grassy ditch
run across the road
and conduct a photo shoot
the flags floating, falling, fluttering
with so much to say
I am nearly blinded with listening
my eyes gazing into the sun


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Flags Flying for All Nations Healing


we are all invited
all nations
offering our best
to one another
in humility

knowing that we don't always know
what is best for someone else
in humility
for past and present arrogance
systems of racism and errasure
on this land

we are invited 
all nations healing
in humility
flags flying
for all nations healing

Photos taken in Fort Qu'Appelle, Treaty 4 Territory
September 30th, 2021
All Nations Healing Hospital

Monday, October 4, 2021

Tell Me an Old Story: Every Child Matters

every child matters
with a Treaty 4 flag waving
a reminder

the Canada flag and Union Jack
fly at half mast
a reminder

every child matters
in Nation to Nation sacred agreements
a reminder

for an old story to guide us
into treaty-based relationships
a reminder

Photos taken in Fort Qu'Appelle, Treaty 4 Territory
September 30th, 2021
First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
All Nations Healing Hospital

Friday, October 1, 2021

Flags Waving a Story in the Wind

 On the morning after the first National Day of Truth and Reconciliation, what story do these four flags tell you?

Photographs taken in Fort Qu'Appelle, Treaty 4 Territory
September 30th, 2021
Outside of the All Nations Healing Hospital