Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day Thirty-Nine: Hurry Now to Claim Your Very Own Settler Treaty Card TM

In my peach and rust kitchen I'm sipping powdered Hong Kong Milk tea which arrived in the mail yesterday. Of course it isn't as rich and pugnant as the sidewalk dai pai dong -- pantyhose or silk stocking tea -- a theatrical event, combining various black teas and evaporated milk, pouring back and forth between the stockings. (I peek at Wikipedia because I forget how to spell dai pai dong. Guess what, the British get the credit.)

"Dear Shee," Noris writes. "This is a special treat for you from us to make our dear writer happy. 'Hong Kong Tea.' This is an instant one but is pretty similar to a real fresh one. Take it for the time being till your next visit. Please read the instruction it recommends. 70 ml per bag. Of course you can add or less water as you like. Enjoy!"

I hold the steaming liquid under my nose. Day Thirty-Nine, I think. Tomorrow I'm twenty percent of the way there. What do I write about tonight? Maybe I should get those letters to the candidates done. For heaven's sake the election is in two weeks.

I've had a few messages on facebook and a few conversations eyeball-to-eyeball (a Noris expression) with friends who saw a six foot red head on the televised Provincial Leadership Debate. Victoria had told me that the media had stopped her on Scarth Street to ask if she had any election issues. She had said something about university education. "Why didn't you ask about treaties?" I had said. Guess some mothers would be proud that their daughter was talking about education.

Oh, I've just remembered I was supposed to phone her when I got home.

She's out, making a Dairy Queen blizzard run for her Auntie and roomies.

I get up and add a little more of the powdered dai pai dong to the mug and pour in a little water. Don't tell Noris I didn't measure. I'm rationing, not even sharing with my children. I sip some tea.
I've pretty much abandoned planned treaty meditation because it has been coming to me, almost in an overwhelming way. After school, my principal said, "I was looking for you this morning. You and Melissa had been invited to sit in on the school board meeting in the culture room."

"Oh, I was hiding in the sewing room," I said. "Jade knew."

"Melissa was able to go, but I thought you would have liked to go because of your interest in treaties."

"I would have," I said, "But maybe it was too much. It just keeps coming and coming."

Cathy laughs. "It wasn't meant to be."

Today Lesley Farley, film maker and digital artist, was in the school providing our grade tens with photography lessons in preparation for our First Nations Literacy Leadership Project entitled, "Heroes and Leaders in Challenging Times." She introduced her PowerPoint, explaining that the word "photography" is from the Greek meaning "light drawing."

I think of my photography from the morning. Laying on my stomach trying to light-draw the snow-dew, or snew as I was calling it, which were so tiny my camera wouldn't focus on the ones in the grasses, little perfect balls caught in the top of the grass like a ball in a left-fielder's glove. I hadn't even notice the tiny snowballs sprinkled over the ground until I was all the way down the lane.

And Lesley has built a coco tin "camera obscura"; the phrase plays in my mind like poetry. Light, obscure, drawing, could describe my morning photo shoots. I'm sure that's what the neighbours are thinking as they drive by: there goes that obscure camera-carrying girl. But most wave enthusiastically, all the same.

Light drawing, reminds me of something Kelsey Starblanket said last week at the professional development session. He said that children are precious in First Nations culture. He said that in his language, the word for child means a bright light, like those blue-white headlights on the highway at night. That bright.

As Lesley is packing up for the day, she hands me an advertisement from briarpatch magazine. "Take a look at this."

I see a pretty, dark-haired, pale-faced young woman holding an identification card, with her picture on the front. I look at the large print at the left-top. "Introducing the Settler Treaty Card" and "Settler Treaty Card" has a "TM" in little letters indicating it's a trade mark. "You can't live here without it!" the poster shouts.

"With your Settler Treaty Card, TM YOU get access to countless privileges that your ancestors' representatives signed on for in perpetuity -- privileges like settler self-government and access to the land."

"Membership has its privileges -- and privilege has its responsibilities." There is a little "t" here to indicate the fine print at the bottom of the card.

"Settler Treaty membership entitles the card-holder to: share this territory (except reserves) with First Nations people and move freely throughout it; freedom of religion; freedom to engage in economic activities and to use the land for the purposes of agriculture; the right to self-government (including trade and taxation, determination of citizenship, social services such as child welfare, health and education); and peace and goodwill."

"Card holders are required to recognize the reciprocal treaty rights of First Nations, including: freedom of movement throughout this shared land as well as those territories reserved for the exclusive use of First Nations; freedom of religion; freedom to engage in economic activities and assurance to a right to a livelihood as well as assistance in times of need; self-government (including trade and taxation, determination of citizenship, and social services; and peace and goodwill. All rights of both settlers and First Nations are further delimited by our shared responsibilities to maintain good relations and to be good stewards of the land."

Now the print is so small I need to squint.

"Some restrictions apply. The Settler Treaty Card is not valid in most areas of British Columbia. Treaties entitle settlers to use the land for agricultural purposes to the depth of a plow. The underlying title to sub-surface resources, forests, and waters remains with First Nations. The information presented here is based upon an oral understanding of the settler/First Nations relationships defined through the numbered treaties of the Prairies, and some local variance in the treaty relationship may apply. Settlers and settler descendants are advised to consult with local First Nations treaty elders regarding the oral understanding of treaties in your area, as well as any unresolved land claims requiring restitution. For more information, please see "Settler Treaty Rights" by Tyler McCrear, Briarpatch Magazine, August 2005."

Even more fine print reads, "Clip and post in a public space. This subadvertisement is available for download and distribution from To order copies of this poster for use in the classroom, please contact"

The blue-white light children are precious on their treaty cards, settler and First Nation alike. I drink British Hong Kong tea in obscura, light-drawing my words until my eyes are blurry; Moira blows me a kiss as she heads up the stairs to bed.

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