Monday, June 11, 2012

Day One Hundred Eighty Five: Not Walking Alone

The morning is last night's rain and left-over wind. I wear mitts with holes, carry my Carnation milk Red Rose tea out the front door to meet Sue who has just pulled into our yard.

"How about that wind?" I say, pulling my blue hood over my head.

"You have a tree down," Sue says.

A large branch, fully leafed, lays across the road. We step around it. "Michael will get it later," I say.

We fall into friendly and focused chatter like athletes hashing out the last game and dreaming about the next. Or maybe school girls planning a party. Or film students out for coffee. Yet here we are, walking in a prairie valley, two newcomer women, wonder-ing how we can honour those first people who walked here before us.

Sue is carrying an email printed on white. It is the blurb I sent about Treaty Walks. She reads it aloud, like it's poetry, as we pass the ski hill. She plans to spend one entire morning this week considering the Treaty Days workshop she is planning with Keitha and I as facilitators next fall. We plan to meet with Keitha on Wednesday after school for coffee and more planning.

Soon we are over the rail track, over the highway, and into the ditch behind the ball diamonds and hockey arena. Poof, our walk is over. Sue turns around, and starts retracing her steps. I walk into the school.

On the way home it is hot. I am walking on the wrong, right side of the road once I get to the trees because there is shade. A hot little red car parks on the left; it's my neighbour, the lawyer. I continue walking, but as he gets out of his vehicle, he calls. "How long of a walk is it?" His dogs bound out of the car. "They're friendly," he adds.

"About thirty five minutes, or longer, depending on how many pictures I'm taking." I begin walking back, toward him.

"I used to walk to my office downtown; for about ten years I walked." He walks forward, his dogs now back at his side.

We fall into neighbourly chatter about the benefits of walking and stories from the road. He turns, to head back to his car, and I say, "I've been walking all year and writing about the treaties."

This stops my lawyer neighbour. "I don't know how much you know about this town and treaties," he says. These opening words lead into another five minutes on my treaty education journey. He tells me that the town street names, "Hudson, Bay, Company, Reserve, Boundary" are named for the reserve that was given to the Hudson Bay Company, pre-treaty. He tells me of the pre-treaty reserve promised to First Nations, right on the land where we stand and live, and then pulled from the books. He tells me that during the signing of Treaty Four, the first three days the negotiations were set on the Hudson Bay land, but the First Nations' Chiefs continued to remind the Crown that this land had been given to the Hudson Bay, but if this was a treaty negotiation, didn't that mean that the land was the First People's. The crown negotiators kept telling the head men to forget about that, but they kept circling back. He tells me that on the fourth day of negotiations, September 15th, 1874, the negotiations were moved off the Hudson Bay land, just down from where we now stand, visiting, and the negotiations were wrapped up by noon.

"You should let me interview you," I say.

"I want to read your blog first," he says. I give him the web address and he turns, disappears into the trees, down to his home on the lake. I turn and continue walking in the shade of the trees, turn up the coulee, and climb home.

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