Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Day One Hundred Ninety Two: Cloud Number Nine

To celebrate Day One Hundred of Treaty Walks we held a blog launch. The highlight for me was a panel discussion featuring Michelle Hugli Brass, Kate Hersburger, Sandy Pinay Schindler, and Lynn Anderson. Michael Koops, my husband, moderated the panel, crafting the questions, fielding questions and reflections from the audience. The trust and honesty present in the room left me in a puddle of tears at the back. Here are some of Sandy Pinay Schindler's thoughts below. (Kate Hersberger's recollections were published on June 1st; Michelle Hugli Brass's comments were posted March 20th and I hope to finish up with Lynn Anderson's sometime in the next eight days and maybe a word from my principal, Cathy Cochrane, who brought warm words in welcome.)

Q: You hear the expression, "We are all Treaty people." What does that mean to you?

There were three parties present at the Treaty negotiations – visionary First Nations leaders, the Crown and Newcomers and the Creator.  These agreements are ‘brother to brother’ and ‘Nation to Nation’ sacred documents. We all do/should all/did benefit from the Treaties.  Unfortunately, the Treaty promises were not kept by the Crown.  As a First Nations treaty person, the promises under Treaty must be fulfilled by the Crown/Government.

Q: In your opinion, "Why would a teacher need to 'mediate on treaties'?"  Educators are closest to the students.  Their knowledge and opinions do affect young minds.  The circumstances around Treaty and the impact on our societies must be understood clearly by all educators for our society and young people to move forward.  We cannot continue to be a “have” and “have not” society.

Q: In her blog, Sheena confesses, "I've lived in Treaty 4 territory most of my life, AND as a Saskatchewan teacher, I am expected to bring 'Treaty teachings' into my classroom; However, I 'know' very little about treaties." How common is this statement?
I think many teachers do not realize the depth of the living history and connection to the land that the First Nations people have and had for millennia here on Turtle Island (North America).  The Treaties encompass all that valuable history and spirituality.  The knowledge and oral history was and is spiritual and endless.  Sadly, the First Nations people’s beliefs and ways of life were not valued by a Euro-centric society.  This is changing, I believe.  We cannot continue to treat Mother Earth so disrespectfully and we have to seek a better rhythm and balance with all the children on this place, our home. To understand the Treaties, an educator needs to understand the worldviews and beliefs of the First Nations people first, or begin a journey of understanding.

Q: Do you feel any significant connection to the fact that we live in a place where Treaty Four was signed?
The Fort was not chosen by accident – it was a meeting place for centuries prior to the signing of Treaty 4.  It is a very spiritual location.

Q: In your estimation, how would you characterize the relationship between First Nations and non-First Nations here in the Fort, in Saskatchewan?
I am not a resident of the Fort.  However, as a First Nations person, I know that there are misconceptions and stereotypes and negativity present in many towns and communities in Saskatchewan.  Many barriers need to be torn down before true partnership and understanding can occur.

Q: What role does Treaty Four have in this relationship?

The Treaty itself was negotiated in good honour.  One goal was ‘good relations’ with all people.

Q: In her blog (Day 10), Sheena recounts a friend of ours, Helen Blacklake, making moccasins with a beaded Mini-Mouse design. What comparison would you make between these Mini-Mouse moccasins and Treaties?

I think the adaptation of new to old is the metaphor I bring to this statement.  Chief Lynn Acoose of Sakimay First Nations talked to me about the Latin term “suis generis” which means that Treaties are adaptable.  They do not expire.  They are able to adapt to modern times.  This can also be said of the First Nations people who adapted to new knowledge and circumstances throughout their lives.

Q: The other day, Sheena was interviewed on CBC’s  Blue Sky, and at the end of the interview the radio host said something to the effect of, “Well, you have made a good impact or good start (on social justice) with this blog."  How much of an impact do you think Treaty Walks will make?

I am hopeful that people will understand the intention of the blog.  It is meant to create understanding.  Some Elders have told me that when we have an idea, and we offer it to a group of people, it no longer belongs to the person who presented it.  It becomes public and shared.  So I think that your blog, Sheena, now belongs to the people who wish to understand the Treaties in a deeper way.

Q: Any reflections or a take-away from the launch or anything else you’d like to share.

At the launch, I mentioned the Treaty Implementation Act. I think fulfilling the true intent and spirit of the Treaties is a goal that many people work for and that is why the Chiefs and leaders keep the spirit and intent of the Treaties on the forefront of all they do for their people and communities.

Reason Number Nine Why I Love Treaty Walks: The panel discussion at our Day One Hundred Blog Launch. I'd do all two hundred days again just to sit and listen to Kate, Michelle, Sandy and Lynn interacting with each other, interacting with Michael and the audience. It was one of the most humble and joy filled moments in my life as I listened in from cloud number nine.

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