Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Day Fifteen: Choices

Michael has woken up barely able to walk; his back is aching. He showers and gets dressed, asking me to help him with his socks. I go downstairs, coffee ready, shoes laced, and I've just put my backpack on, opened the front door when Michael limps down the stairs. "I can't go to school. I'm in too much pain."

The leaves flutter in the breeze. The sun is breaking a patch of brilliance close to town, I know because I saw from our upstairs window. It's going to be a great walk, but I told Jade I'd drive to our professional development today. Should I text her? Could Michael drive the vehicle in, but then how would he get home. I've packed a suitcase to keep in the Envoy so that I don't have to carry so much in my backpack, especially the boots I have to wear with my brown pants or they drag in the dirt. If I repack my back pack or change my outfit, that'll take time, and then I'll be late, and what if Jade can't drive today?

Michael is still standing by the phone, hunched over, calling in sick, then writing his sub notes. He groans with each slight move. I take my backpack off and sit down at the kitchen table and sip my coffee. Michael joins me and we share a few moments. I've decided to drive.

I snap pictures down the lane, turning left, past the neighbours, the ski hill, governance centre, hospital, coop card lock, stop sign, railway, highway, Sarcan, bargain shop, curling rink, and into the school parking lot. Snap, I'm here.

Our drive to McLean is uneventful, other than I'm almost out of gas, and after the workshop we find out there is no gas station in McLean, so we must drive to Qu'Appelle (where gas is $0.04 cents off a litre on Wednesdays.) The sun is full, the breeze is soft, the air is clean, and we're stuck in a vehicle. I have been worried about what I will do when faced with bad weather or inconvenience, but I feel better knowing how much I've missed my walk today. When I chose to drive today, the driving was the sacrifice, not the reward.

Today I'm reminded of my privilege. I faced a situation in which I needed to change my plan to meet my obligations. Afterall, my treaty walks are my choice. I also may choose to opt out of one day of walking. Likewise, for the treaty newcomers, the treaties have brought choice, freedom, and independence. We can even opt out of treaty awareness, treaty responsibility, to the point where we think treaties have nothing to do with us. We can take treaties or leave them, this is our privilege, but they are still working for us.

First Nations people have not had the same experience with treaties. I heard one elder say (my paraphrase), "I keep hearing people say, 'we are all treaty people,' and I don't know what they mean by that. They (newcomers) didn't come to the treaty gatherings; they didn't live by the treaties." What I understood from this was that the expression "we are all treaty people" sounds too romantic because the newcomers never had to live under the oppression that followed for First Nations after signing treaty. Treaties represented loss of choice, freedom, and independence. I get that I'm a treaty person, but I also get that treaty has meant very different things for either side.

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