Monday, September 26, 2011

Day Eighteen: Why Aren't We Marching?

As a girl I remember wandering around my farm, pushing the barbwire fence with one hand and tucking between the wires into the pasture. Our horses kept the grasses fairly clipped so it was easy to see the flowers, from crocus and blue bell in the spring; mustard and buffalo bills in the summer; yarrow and rose hips in the fall. I even found cactus berries once. Dad said they're sweet after a freeze, but I don't remember if I tried one or not.

I loved that land. Threatened my dad that if he ever ploughed the pasture... He did deepen the dugout and laughed when he told the backhoe operator that he had to plough around "rose hill" or he'd be in trouble with his daughter. There was just something about imagining that the land had always been there, just as I was seeing it.

But it wasn't just the land. It was the people, too. I knew I wasn't the only one who had walked up that hill, slept under those stars, rubbed sage between my palms. Who were the people? This was my question as I looked to the horizon, wind on my face. This was my question as I lay back in a snow bank, eyes frozen on the blue sky. This was my question as I rode my horse bareback into the valley. Who were the people who had walked this land?

There was one thing I knew had to be true. The people were smart. Anyone who could thrive outdoors in a land of blizzards, wind chill, prairie fire, scorching sun, floods, hail -- basically living in the middle of the weather channel -- had to be intelligent. And then the whole business of hunting, gathering and food security. The more time I spent outside, the more respect I had for those first people.

Guess I'm thinking of those people as I walk to school this morning. Last night I read in the Treaty Essential Learnings that First Nations people had been negotiating treaties with other First Nations way before contact with the first Europeans. First Nations didn't enter into treaty with the British Crown as naive partners. The use of spiritual ceremony points to this treaty-making sophistication. The ceremony was an act of ratifying the treaty.

One of my students today tells me that her Mooshum wanted her to walk in a demonstration march in Regina, something about education and the university. They were meeting at Cree Land, a gas station, then walking to the Legislative Building. My student says she would have gone, but it was her first day coming back to school.

My legs felt strong this morning, but they are achy as I walk home. I sit at my kitchen table, eating fresh bread crusts. On the radio I hear of the protest in Regina. They are marching against First Nations poverty. They are raising awareness that the treaties have not been honoured, specifically promised land that has not been delivered, economic opportunities denied. The announcer says that Aboriginal people are marching today, and I wonder, where are the newcomers? Why aren't we marching?

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