Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day Four: Thank you for sharing this land

My backpack is bulging with a change of clothes, books, purse, and lunch. My camera dangles off the side. My stride is strong down the shady coulee. The morning sun warms my back as I turn onto Sioux Avenue, just outside the town limits of Fort Qu'Appelle. Green and yellow, green and red, green and orange, green and green: the trees, grasses, flowers, weeds, berries, bushes, hills, shade and sunshine are partners in green.

I decide to take the short cut through the hay field treaty grounds at the earliest spot possible. There is a culvert with a bit of mud, so I wait until that has passed. Within ten steps into the field, I know it's a mistake because the dew is so heavy. Half way through the field my toes are sloshing and squishing in my socks. Yuck. I wonder if I'm living the idiom "having wet feet". I'm having trouble focusing on my treaty thinking this morning. Last night in Treaty Essential Learnings: We are all Treaty People (Office of the Treaty Commissioner) I read about the partners in the treaties: First Nations, British Crown, and the Creator. I look at the friendly flags at the hospital, the British inbetween the Canadian and Saskatchewan flags. I keep hearing "the Crown" in my head. On page 12 I had read, "First Nations peoples were guided by the Creator and the newcomers were guided by the Queen of Britain." I'm conflicted: I want to be guided by the Creator but so much of my identity, history, and culture is guided by the crown. (I remember feeling so "at home" during my trip to England in 1988.)

I join the road at the governance centre, walk past the hospital, and meet my brother driving the town grader. He honks, a tiny little beep beep for such a big machine. At the Coop I decide to short-cut again. My phone rings and Arwen's chirpy voice says, "Hi Mom, where are you now?" I say, "Just past the coop..." and then I yell, "Ahhhh, birs. My leg is covered in birs." Arwen says, "I told you not to go that way." I laugh. Little know-it-all, I think, but I'm happy the girls are awake, dressed, and eating breakfast, ready for their first day on the bus to school.

After 4:00 I change into my damp-legged pants, pull on clean socks, and force my feet into my wet runners. A colleague asks if I'm going to work out. "Nope. I'm walking home," I say. I'm short-cutting all the way, across the football field where our boys are growing green-jersy-green from the field. I cross the highway and my phone rings mid-ditch. It's the school secretary. "Sheena, where are you?" I say, "Uhhh, walking home." She says, "You're walking home?" I have been embarassed to tell people about my walks, especially "why" I"m walking, afraid to draw attention to myself when I'm trying to draw attention to something bigger than myself. "Yes, I'm walking home," I say from the ditch.

The sun is hot, but green hot, not red hot. It feels good on my bare shoulders in the breeze. I remember the chart on page 14 of the Treaty Essential Learnings, and the main "thing" the newcomers wanted from treaty was "peaceful access to the land." Here I am, walking this beautiful valley, in peace and freedom. I benefit everyday from Treaty 4. One of the main "things" First Nations peoples wanted from treaties was access to education so that their children could succeed in the new world. As I walk, and now type at home, I've never thought of my job with such reverence. By being a teacher in Fort Qu'Appelle I am saying, "Thank you for sharing this land."


  1. Good post! You've inspired me to read more about my own treaty, treaty 6. Amazing how treaties still are such a main part of our lives & how the majority don't even think about it (like me!). The education as part of the treaty is a fine example. The leaders of the past wanted education for the young...and here you are, how many years later, honouring this treaty & teaching the descendents of those who were at the signing & negotiations of the treaties!

  2. Golden, my friend. Love this post!