Friday, August 31, 2012

Building Bridges at Treaty Days

Join Keitha Brass and Sheena Koops as they Facilitate Building Bridges at Treaty Days

When: September 14-16
Where: Fort Qu’Appelle

This weekend experience at Calling Lakes Centre near Fort Qu’Appelle will introduce participants to an overview of the shared (but often silent) history of newcomer-Aboriginal relationships, provide an introduction to the concept of Treaty and what it means to us as non-Aboriginal Canadians, and offer many rich experiences in the midst of Aboriginal culture at the Grand Entry and Powwow at the annual Treaty Four Celebrations. Accompanying us throughout the weekend will be two women, who are friends and colleagues, Keitha Brass and Sheena Koops. Keitha is the great grand daughter of original Treaty Four signator, Chief Ben Pasqua, unofficial tour guide of Fort Qu’Appelle, and the director of the Community Outreach Management Centre, a grassroots organization supporting marginalized people and enhancing First Nations and Newcomer relationships. Sheena Koops is Keitha’s friend, a local teacher and writer who has been blogging about her meditations on the Treaties as she walks to and from school each day. Both women walk their talk as treaty people and have much to share with us about how their cross-cultural friendship and shared projects has enriched each of their lives.

For more information contact Sue Bland at the Calling Lakes Centre, Fort Qu’Appelle at (306) 332-5691 or

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Four Strong


The sunlight slaps my back like an old friend as I step out of the shade. I turn around to say hello and the leaves are orange and giggling. So good to be outside this morning in the cool air.

Our sister schools, Balcarres Community School and Fort Qu'Appelle Elementary Community School, are arriving at Bert Fox Community High School for a morning of collaborative planning. Erin, who used to teach with us but now teaches in Balcarres, pops into my classroom. Want to play table tennis? So we set up the table and hit some balls.

In the gym Cathy, my principal, welcomes us with her enthusiastic mantra. We are to sign up for Professional Learning Communities, PLC's, and I see that Treaty Teaching Awareness is one of the options. I meet Roberta Gehl from Fort Elementary and she says she's in. Kaitlyn, Val's intern, and Mira, my intern, both want to join us, and there's our group. Four strong.

Late this afternoon I am off to a funeral for the grandmother of a former student. Today is full of endings and beginnings. Fall turns to winter turns to spring turns to summer turns to fall. Four seasons strong.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


All summer long people asked me if I was going to walk again next year. I said maybe or I think so or I hope I do, but I wasn't sure until yesterday morning when I strapped on my backpack. Seems silly  that I think it's a big deal. My girlfriend in New York City doesn't own a car and she walks everywhere, forty-five minutes one way to work. We got caught in a rainstorm this summer and my hippy shirt sleeves were wring-able wet by the time we got home. 

I wasn't sure I would continue blogging either. Had I exhausted the topic? Had I maxed out my effectiveness? But then yesterday, after I posted a few thoughts, a friend-of-a-friend, Tim Eashappie shared my link on facebook. I thanked him and he wrote back, "You're welcome. Sounds good to me. I will help you in any manner of your walk .. good cause. Our grandfathers signed those on our behalf, know what was coming down the pipe today .. they already new what was gunna happen..." Made me think that if I can keep the topic of treaty on a few people's minds, then that is a small thing I can do to say thank you for sharing this treaty land with me.

It wasn't as hot today as it was yesterday, walking home. Yesterday is was plus 35 Celsius, and I didn't even have a hat. Ug. Today there was a breeze and the temperature was likely in the mid twenties. At the hospital I saw my sister-in-law's Volkswagen pulling out, past the four flags. She pulled over with a big grin on her face. I leaned into the passenger side window.

"I'm so glad you're walking," she said. "I had so much trouble not bugging you this summer. I just kept waiting for you to post something. Come on, I thought, you know you're going to do it."

So here I am, walking across the bridge today, and the grass is growing, the sun is shining, the river is flowing and I am still blogging about my Treaty Walks.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

On the Road Again

Photo: Back on the path.

My summer took me to Toronto, New York City, Macoun, Kenosee Lake, and Quesnel. I'm full of questions, like, is Toronto a First Nations word? Is Wall Street on Algonquin land? Why is visiting Macoun so loaded?  Is fiddle music treaty music and why does the Kenosee Lake Kitchen Party have to end? What does treaty mean to the Dene and newcomers of Quesnel in Northern British Columbia?

On one of my walks this summer I was listing all the province names, and figured only Saskatchewan and Manitoba have First Nations derivation. I had a poster in my classroom all last year from the Occupy movement and it said something about NYC and Algonquin land. I walked down the lane only once this summer at the farm and wept trying to take in the wind in the trees, ducks on the green dugout, clouds in the sky. I never even went to Dad's garden or the little heritage house. An elder in the Lhoosk'uz Dene Nation office in Quesnel told me that she didn't want treaty and just wanted the old ways. A young woman, her granddaughter, explained they never signed treaties, never gave up title to the land.

Today was the first of three days back to school before our students start on September 4th. I have an intern, Mira Krahn, who sat through meetings with me and then did some team planning. One of her goals this year is to learn more about treaty education. I am thankful for her gentle and generous spirit, and I look forward to learning with and from her this year.