Saturday, September 29, 2012

SWG Board and Community Reading in Indian Head

Lisa Wilson, Vice-President of the SWG, reads poems from a new manuscript. Her poems are word-pictures, letting us see through her eyes as she looks at old black and white shots from the Gordon's Residential School.

I read from the article I sent to FreeLance about blogging Treaty Walks.

I'm attending this community reading in Indian Head at the invitation of Allison Kydd, who is a board member of the SWG. I'm so happy to see one of my writing heroes, Rod MacIntyre, who has just driven in from LaRonge for the board meetings. When I wrote my thesis, Blue Eyes Remembering Toward Anti-racist Pedagogy, way back in 2006, I thank Rod in the introduction for helping me find my narrative.

There is so much to unpack about the reading tonight:
  • The etymology of the town name: Indian Head.
  • A gentleman from Indian Head reads his poem about fur trade voyagers wearing a Quebecois voyager sash which today is recognized as a Metis symbol.
  • Lisa Wilson's poetry.
  • My embarrassment talking about treaties, cold, to an audience who doesn't know me. I feel like I should apologize before I begin, but I don't.
  • Rod asked Arwen what she was reading. She had along one of her favorite books, Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. In both pictures, with Lisa and Rod, Arwen is clutching her other book A Desperate Road to Freedom.
There is so much to unpack about the reading tonight, but I've run out of time and energy.

Lisa Wilson and Arwen

Rod MacIntyre and Arwen

Missed this gentleman's name. I'll have to update later.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Kinosew Photo Shoot

blue-eyed-me and blonde mira
kayak all afternoon long
through reeds, ripples, light-rays
into the sun

for Kinosew, fish in Cree, we say
thank you for sharing your animals and your languages

for the kayak we say
thank you for sharing your technology and your art

for Kenosee Lake we say
thank you for sharing your water and your land

Note: A Kenosee resident told us that Kenosee means fish, but he didn't know in what language. He wondered if it was Dakota. I didn't think so, but what do I know, really... When I searched an on-line Cree dictionary, I saw that kinosew is fish in Cree. I've spent many summers on the shores of Kenosee and never knew what the name meant. So much to learn and appreciate about this land we share.

Thank you to photographer, Douglas E. Walker, who asked us if we'd kayak into the sunset and harvest moon in a photo shoot. Because we said yes we ended up spending four extra hours on the lake and what a gift that was, nowhere to be, no rush to get there, just gliding, playing with the mud hens running on the water, scaring up four pelicans, racing the muscrats, listening to the geese honking overhead.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kayaking Kenosee

On the first day I met Mira, I told her I was an experiential learner. I had to go to Europe before I could look at a map and understand it; I flew into Hong Kong having read nothing about the city of my friends; I cook without recipes.

It's Wednesday at Internship Seminar, and Mira and I are supposed to dialogue through thirty-three open-ended questions to help us consider our working relationship. We've brought two kayaks, loaded proudly on Mira's Opa's red truck; this afternoon will be our only window to get out on the lake. We tear out the questions, slide off the kayaks, slip on the life jackets, and head for the Kenosee Lake beach.

I pull the Kayak I've borrowed from Justin into the water. I bob the boat up and down, double headed paddle teetering on either side, like I would to balance in a canoe. Mira is back on shore. I'm yelling questions, not waiting for answers. "Is it like a canoe? Do I just step in? How deep should I go in?"

I step into the kayak, bounce up and down a little, balancing with the paddle; then I squat my knees and fall back into the low seat, back straight, like Mira had said once in one of our talks. I land fairly hard; the kayak bounces once and then rolls to the right, me and my straight back falling into about two feet of water.

I stand up, not five minutes out and soaking from my head to my toes. Mira is laughing hysterically on the shore. I double up in laughter. "Oh, good," I shout, "We have an audience." Quite a few of our conference participants are dialoguing on the lawn of the inn, facing the lake. Mira snaps some pictures and continues to laugh.

Three and a half hours later we are returning from a paddle across the lake to the church camps and where we go for fiddle camp. We've just finished thirty three questions. The last question is, "What do you want to get from this seminar?"

I yell back at Mira as I head for shore, "To Kayak."

Thursday we only kayak for half an hour, just as the sun is setting, then we have to run back for an evening session.

Friday we finish our last session, load up the truck and head for the lake. As we are untying the kayaks, a man approaches us. "This is a strange question, but how would you like to be part of a photo shoot? My friend is a professional photographer and he saw you on the lake yesterday and was wondering if you'd be around at sunset. He hopes there may be a harvest moon, and would love to have some kayaks to photograph against the lake and sky."

We decide to stay. I text Michael. Mira texts her sister.

We launch onto the lake at 2:00 and don't come back to the dock until 5:45, as the sun is slipping into position to set. In an hour it's all over. We're packing up the kayaks. The moon was too hazy behind the clouds to give the photographer great pictures, but Mira and I think the moon is the best part of the night as it rises, the growing bluer and bluer as we drive away.

Man sitting with legs covered in boat that tapers to a point at each end holding long, pointed, wooden pole
Inuit seal hunter in a kayak, armed with a harpoon

Photo of two males wearing fur sitting in well of large kayak
Two people in kayak, Nunivak, Alaska, photographed by Edward S. Curtis, 1930

Inupiat in a kayak, Noatak, Alaska, c. 1929 (photo by Edward S. Curtis)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Go Forth and Be Awkward

Sunshine and yellowing leaves. Blue lake and red kayaks. Fresh air and young hearts.

The Kenosee Inn on the shores of Lake Kenosee is our home for three days and two sleeps. Mira and I are partnered with two other cooperating teacher and intern pairs (Syndy and Kelly; Lisa and Daniel) as well as two fearless facilitators, Murray and Greg. We cover it all: the philosophy, science, art, social, and communication of teaching.

Our last session together is called, "Teaching for a Better World." There is a variety of experience in the room. Letter written to Z99 over heteroism; discussion of religious persecution; racism; sexism; ism isms.

After our sessions are officially over, we've packed our bags, we've loaded our truck, we've left our keys on the dresser top, we head back to our instructors cabin for an after lunch check in and check out. I bring a copy of our student written magazine: Our Young People Speak. I also share the participant posters as community curriculum and some of my blog posts left over from photocopies I made for the Chamber of Commerce presentation last week ( and

We are reflecting on the uncomfortableness of raising issues that are not polite and may not be welcome. I share that my life is full of awkwardness; it's my superpower. We laugh, and as we part, I pronounce a benediction: Go Forth and Be Awkward.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Chamber of Commerce Building Bridges

I'm walking down the lane and as I turn left onto the valley floor I remember that I am presenting to the Fort Qu'Appelle Chamber of Commerce today at lunch. Kerri Ward, Economic Development Officer, had wanted someone connected with the Treaty Four Gathering to speak to the monthly meeting, but she was unsuccessful landing someone who could get away from prior commitments. I am plan B.

I plan my talk as I walk past moose meat hanging over a fire, past the tipi villiage, past the Treaty Four Governance Centre, past the All Nations Healing Hospital. Do I focus on my Treaty Walks? Do I focus on Treaty Education? Do I share the Building Bridges to Treaty Days program that Keitha and I facilitated last weekend at Calling Lakes?

It's noon and I am standing in the second floor dining area at the golf course. There is a long table made by pulling smaller tables together. Monica and Jaymss, two old students, are bringing coffee and serving soup and sandwiches.

"I am the least of these who could be speaking to you today," I say, explaining that Kerri had tried to find someone more closely involved with Treaty Four. "But I appreciate the opportunity to share what I have been learning. First, let me tell you how much I appreciate the active role of the chamber in our community. You are like my principal, Cathy Cochrane, who is in the hallways of our school, having the pulse of what's going on. I understand that you have your meetings in a variety of places, and that's encouraging to me.

"Another confession is that I come from a family of teachers and social workers. There aren't very many business people, so I'm just starting to understand the mindset of business people. In fact, it's been through my connection with the Fine Lifestyles Magazine and interviewing people, I've started to hear the heart and vision of business people. I'm learning what you already know: Business people are not just interested in the bottom line, you are community builders. You have passion.

I talk a little of my Treaty Walks story, walking all last year, blogging about treaty. I talk about the three principals on which treaty was formed, the Cree words: Miyowicehtowin,Witaskewin, Pimacihowin (see Day Seven ) getting along, living on the land together, and making a living. I share that I believe the treaties, our treaty four, is a beautiful document explaining that we can get along. That those First Nations leaders were intelligent and articulate; how Noel Starblanket explained to us last weekend what a significant role the women played who were back at the camps and when the men returned from negotiating, the women made sure they didn't forget key points, especially providing for their unborn children. Elder Starblanket had said, "They were thinking of me, of us, right here today."

"When we think of living together on the land, this is a hard one, because the crown had the world view that land could be bought and sold; the First Nations believed the land could not be bought and sold, but could be shared, as the many nations had shared the land for centuries. This has been a big treaty issue and continues to be.

"The third principal, making a living is particularly misunderstood today, I believe. People have stereotypes that First Nations people don't want to work, are lazy, but do we know our country's history? Do we realize the impact of residential schools, land grabs, disenfranchisement, disease, captivity on reserves under Indian agents, and economic strangulation under the Indian Act and the pass and permit system?

I story tell my own small enlightenment when Michael and I were driving to Regina once, with our daughters in the back of the vehicle. He began to tell me of a story he heard from an elder. She had been taken from her home at three years old, and not returned until she was thirteen. I broke into tears. "I can't hear this," I said. In the back seat our oldest was thirteen and our youngest was three. Part of my privilege is I can choose to stop listening when it starts to hurt, but even that small hurt, imagining losing my babies, was a strong emotional education.

I hold three fingers up and repeat the concepts: getting along, living together on the land, and making a living.

"You, the business leaders have a strong role to play in the healing of our country, especially in the area of making a living. I am encouraged to see your willingness to educate yourself, understand our history, so we can make a better Canada.

Two of the business women in town linger with me and we discuss ways that the business community can begin new bridge building. I am encouraged by their passion and insights.

A young man I don't recognize, so he wasn't a student, had been leaning on the counter by the register, listening to my words. After everyone has left, he comes and shakes my hand. "I really liked what you said," he says. "Especially that part about us not wanting work. That's just not true. We want to work, but our families are sometimes having troubles."

Jaymss comes over and I get a hug from her. "I miss school," she says. "That was good. I haven't been in class for a long time." We laugh.

I tell both young people how much their encouragement means to me.

I walk out the door; it's beautiful, crisp autumn. I walk past the sign reminding us of the first RCMP post here in the Fort, 1875 to 1880. One hundred thirty seven years ago, one year after the signing of treaty four, the newcomers looked over this valley, and the rest is history.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Amber and Mira

Here we have Amber Boddy and Mira Krahn, two remarkable young women.
I first met Amber as one of Michael's students at Storefront.
Over the last year I have known her as the library lady,
her passion for literacy finding a home at the Fort library.
She even started her own blog.
Now I know Amber as a fellow staff member at Bert Fox.
One of Mira's firsts as a new teacher has been working with an Educational Assistant.
Lucky Mira, Amber was assigned to our classroom.
I'll continue treaty walking with both these women
as Amber works on her Practicum and Mira on her Internship.