Friday, November 30, 2012

Clears a Path for Me

My brother motors by at 7:30 this morning. He drives a big orange beast, sees into the darkness, pushes snow like whipped cream. I'm proud of my brother and people like him who care about roads. Road planners. Road builders. Road graders. And when you live in Saskatchewan and the snow begins to blow, you really love those who know how to clear a path.

For over a year now, I've been treaty walking on purpose. One of the biggest things I've learned is that I've actually been walking a treaty road for over forty-five years, but I've been walking without seeing the road. Without knowing those planners and builders and graders. Without knowing the name of the road.

I'm so thankful for those of you who are clearing this treaty road for me. For Michael Koops, Alma Poitras, Sandy Pinay Schindler, Keitha Brass, Charlene Tupone, Cathy Cochrane, Ann Alphonse Simons, Joyce Mercredi, Bill and Mary Muirhead, Dan and Joan Bellegarde, Jade Ivan, Sue Bland, Trudine Cote, Alfred Cyr, Kate Hersberger, Steve Krause, Carol Schick, Allan Clarke, Cathy Hobbs, Lin Brown, Michelle Hugli Brass, Amber Body, and my daughters, Victoria, Moira, and Arwen.

I'm also thankful for my brother, Ian, who honks as he passes. Who warms me -- out here in the blowing snow. Who clears a path for me.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Slippery Slope

walking down my coulee
i'm happy for the spikey footware
steve sent home with michael
for me to try out

but just past angie's driveway
i lose one of the slip ons
and i have to backtrack
and yank it over my boot
again i keep walking
when i lose the other
almost to the ski hill
and i think maybe
it would be easier
to just carry them
i walk a few feet
and i'm already missing
over ice rutted roads

so on i walk
and stop
and pick up
and put back on
and keep walking

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Exploring the Work of Catalyst Leadership Teams

This past weekend I was in Saskatoon for board meetings of The Dr. Stirling McDowell Foundation for Research into Teaching as well as their annual conference, Learning From Practice. I have been on the board for just under a year now, and am very excited about the restructuring and rebranding process we are undergoing.

The first session I attended was the round table for new and potential McDowell Researchers. It's been over ten years since I began my own research relationship with the McDowell Foundation. I was very excited to listen in on this session, facilitated by Deborah Rodgers, who works as a research consultant with the McDowell Foundation. She had each person in the session explain what they are researching, encouraging everyone from Outdoor Educators to French Language Instructors to Treaty Catalyst Teachers.

I fell into deep conversation with Sylvia immediately after the session ended. She had just wrapped up her thesis, examining Treaty Implementation. She shared her own journey, stories from her mom and dad, and listened enthusiastically to my experiences. Her research colleague from the U of S, Michael Cottrell, joined us later. After some more thought provoking exchange, he invited me to join their research project.

Consent Letter
To Whom It May Concern,
                        I have been selected to participate in a Stirling McDowell Foundation research project. Brandon Needham (Yorkton Regional High School) and Michael Cottrell (U of S) are conducting research titled “Creating a Culturally Responsive Learning Program That Benefits All Learners: Exploring the Work of Catalyst Leadership Teams.” The goal of the inquiry is to deepen understanding of culturally responsive education in the Saskatchewan context through analysis of enacted curriculum. The inquiry will be guided by the following overarching research question: What practices and initiatives created by Catalyst Leadership Teams best facilitate positive learning outcomes for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students in Saskatchewan schools?
                         The Stirling McDowell foundation asks that each researcher gain the permission of their director and their principal before they can be considered participants in the research. I feel this research will not only impact the division’s work around closing the gap for our Aboriginal students but the work of many others. 
(As of today, both my principal and director have signed this document. I'm in!!!)
                         Just as I was leaving the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation office where the conference was taking place, I saw a man who I'd seen visiting with other members of my new research team. I introduced myself, and learned that he is Terry Pelletier from Cowessess First Nation and is a participant in the research team as well. With a little more visiting, we figured out that I actually have a picture of him in my classroom.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Community Outreach Christmas Dinner Invitation

You are Invited to the
Community Outreach Christmas Dinner  
December 18th, 2012
Bert Fox Community High School
11:45 to 1:15

How can you help?

Supplies: turkeys, hams, potatoes, carrots, turnips, yams, squash, pies, perogies, cabbage rolls, salads, pickles, cranberry, oranges, candies, margarine, buns, gravy and stuffing fixings, gloves, plates, cutlery, Christmas cards, money donations

Service: decorating, setting up, serving, elder seating, elder plates, clean up, prep work, committee coordinating, sound system, collecting donations

Christmas Cheer: caroling, greeting, inviting, thank you’s, Santa, Santa’s helpers, card writing

Community School Goals: ATFSL goals, treaty catalyst teacher connections, community connections, community partnerships.  

For more information talk to Keitha Brass or call Sheena Koops at the High School (332-4343) or home (332-3023).

Monday, November 26, 2012

Country Wife

On the Riel Trail, highway eleven home from Saskatoon, I see a mother and son, cast in metal. I cross the highway and follow the bumps and ruts of the newly made road. It's cold and I'm only wearing a light blazer and dress slacks, but I trot out to the statue. She's beautiful from every side and her son is such a little man, under her hand.

The interpretive sign is called, "The Lesson." I read: "Mother and son, she is Cree and he is Metis. There is much wisdom her culture, experience, and traditions can provide. She is the 'Country Wife' of a fur trader. From this union a new race is born, the half breed and Metis. Liaisons between her people and the mighty companies engaged in the fur trade economy of the Northwest are invaluable. Thus becomes her role as our diverse people weave a pathway that leads to nationhood."

My hands are freezing as I snap a picture of the sign. I have heard of the Country Wives, and their great contribution to Canadian history, but I'm surprised the sign doesn't acknowledge the suffering experienced by many of these women who were often replaced by the fur trader's "real wives". I run back to my vehicle, shivering.

In "Voices of the Grandmothers: Reclaiming a Metis Heritage", Christine Welsh says, "My great-great-great-grandmother was just twenty-one years old when she became the 'country wife' of the Governor of Rupert's Land. Though George Simpson was notorious for indulging in short-lived liaisons with young native women, his relationship with Margaret Taylor appeared to be different. He relied on her companionship to an unusual degree, insisting that she accompany him on his historic cross-continental canoe journey from Hudson Bay to the Pacific in 1828. Not only did Simpson recognize and assume responsibility for their two sons, but he also provided financial support for Margaret's mother and referred to Thomas Taylor as his brother-in-law, thus giving Margaret and the rest of fur-trade society every reason to believe that their relationship constituted a legitimate 'country marriage.' Nevertheless, while on furlough in England in 1830 -- and with Margaret and their two sons anxiously awaiting his return at Fort Alexander -- Simpson married his English cousin, Frances Simpson.

"It is not hard to imagine Margaret's shock when she learned that the Governor was returning with a new wife. No doubt she and her children were kept well out of sight when Simpson and his new bride stopped at Fort Alexander during their triumphant journey from Lachine to Red River. Once the Simpsons were installed at Red River the Governor lost no time in arranging for Margaret's 'disposal,' a few months later she was married to Amable Hogue..."

Turning onto the southbound Louis Riel Trail near Kenaston, I am haunted by this Metis mother in my rear view mirror, pointing to the horizon. What is the lesson she is sharing with her son today?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

So You've Just Decided You're Not Okay with Unbalanced Treaty Implementation: What Do You Do Now?

So, you've just decided you're not okay with unbalanced treaty implementation. What do you do now?

1. Listen to people who have been negotiating treaties (literally and figuratively) for years and years and generations.

2. Talk to someone. Write a letter. Question a politician. Teach a child. Go for coffee. Pen a poem. Post on facebook. Interrupt a broken record. Cross a line. Remember kindness. Speak with humility.

3. Gather. Support. Organize. Lobby.

4. Walk as a treaty partner.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

So You've Just Found Out You're a Treaty Person: What Do You Do Now?

So You've Just Found Out You're a Treaty Person. What Do You Do Now?

1. Consider your own immigration story. What brought your people to this country? Were you leaving persecution? Were you looking for land? Did your grandfathers and grandmothers hope to give you a better life? What benefits did you experience in the new country? What was your family's work ethic? Education? Culture? Spirituality? What did your people do for fun? Did anyone every return to the old country?

2. Research your treaty history. Did your people come to Canada under one of the numbered treaties? Under one of the pre 1850 treaties? Did your family immigrate where a treaty was never negotiated, like parts of British Columbia (and if so, contemplate the implications of there being no treaty.) Have your people received their rights as negotiated in treaty? (Access to land, opportunity to make a living, freedom to co-exist?)

3. Research treaty history from the other side of the handshake. Read up on the Royal Proclamation of 1763. Read the treaty where you live today. Read the Indian Act which was never part of the treaties (imposed on First Nations with no consultation or permission.) Listen to elder stories about disease, residential school, Indian Agents, reserves, pass and permit system, and racism. Listen to elder stories about family, community, the land, spirituality, simple joys, forgiveness, resilience, and taking responsibility. Do a lot of listening. Have the people on the other side of the handshake received their rights as negotiated in treaty?

4. Get ready to take a stand. Do your homework. Stretch those muscles. Respect your limitations. Take a stand.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Chief Darrel McCallum, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation at Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation

Dear Dan,

I have given away the four Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation CD's I bought from you at cost. Can I order four more? Yesterday, I almost gave away my copy to our Saskatchewan provincial table tennis coach who is from Belgium. He was sharing some of things he's learning in his travels (like how South African apartide was based on our Canadian reserve system) and as I was trying to share my limited understanding of our history, I ran for this CD and said, you need to listen to this, but in our rush to pack up, he left it behind.

Thank you again for letting me post excerpts from the Chiefs' Forum. Many of the speeches were way over my head, and I had to listen to them a few times, and read them, too, to even know what it is I need to start studying. Other speeches went below my head, straight into my heart. Chief McCallum's presentation did a little of both. Again, I am humbled by the lifelong commitment of many of these leaders, who have been fighting an almost forgotten battle. I am also touched by the courage he takes from the elders "sitting behind" him. This leadership must sometimes be lonely and thankless, but it seems to me that the forum was a time of renewal and resolve. Thank you for letting me listen in.

I look forward to meeting with you and Joan again, hopefully considering a community response to the recommendations from Prairie Wild consulting. I want my family -- my people -- to grow as treaty partners, walking in unity, sharing resources, bringing healing to our valley.

With much respect,
Chiefs’ Open Forum
Darrel McCallum: Chief, Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation

As a Chief, I look at myself as a Treaty protector first and foremost.  I view Tribal Councils, FSIN and AFN as advocates and I utilize those organizations for lobbying purposes, especially FSIN, which was formed 65 years ago to protect Treaty people.

I’m not sure if I’m a rotten apple in the bunch, but I keep fighting the government on tripartite arrangements, MOUs and MOAs.

I believe that we could have a modern day existing Treaty with the province to do away with 1930 legislation called the NRTA.  That has given the province a lot of control over resources in our traditional lands.  Trappers are impacted because they have to travel far to get a license to trap in territories that their family has used for generations.  We had an existing Treaty prior to 1930 and the NRTA should not have been able to change the Treaty.  We are recognized in Canada’s constitution, and in our own way, that we do have some authority, power and jurisdiction over our traditional lands.  And yet, Saskatchewan is the only province that has yet to negotiate resource revenue sharing.  

We as Chiefs have to view the Treaty as sacred.  Any time Treaty discussions comes around we should be there to fight for that Treaty.

At all times, when we take on the role of Leadership, we have to know our enemies and our friends.  We have to know our opportunities.  We have to know our strengths and we also have to look at any threats against us.

I am proud of those Chiefs who leave the province and speak on our behalf, such as those who went to Geneva to speak to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

We must ask ourselves how we honour and respect the Treaty.  The sacredness of this Treaty has to come from our people.  We look at the housing crisis and say that we have a Treaty right to shelter.  But, along with the right, we also have responsibility for that Treaty right to shelter.  Some people wreck or torch their homes right away.  For Treaty implementation to work in housing, we must ask people how they honour and uphold Treaty.  Maybe Johnny needs to put in half the time building that house in order to value that house.

As for our Treaty right and responsibility for education, we find that attendance is an issue.  I cannot blame Ottawa why those kids are not at school.  Perhaps I can blame some on residential school but only some.  It is up to us to respect this Treaty right to education and take full advantage of opportunities.

If we’re colonized, we need to decolonize.  If we’re assimilated, we have to reclaim our culture.  Teaching ourselves to be responsible is in itself a huge responsibility.  To ensure responsibility we need policies and we need to enforce accountability.  Somehow, someway, we need to teach responsibility back to the people.

I want to commend AJ.  I went to a Treaty gathering in Fort Carlton.  You’re one of the people that truly uphold the Treaty talk in Saskatchewan, along with Dan and the FSIN technicians.  I want to recognize Chief Perry Bellegarde for his work at the international level, along with Chief Wallace Fox.

We must know our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats at the international, national and provincial levels.  We have to include Leadership and role of Leadership in Treaty implementation discussions.  When we have FSIN announce new Chiefs, those guys should be thrown in a room somewhere for a week for a strong orientation on the roles and responsibilities of Leadership, the FSIN, the Tribal Council, the Treaty areas and the AFN, as well as an understanding of the federal and provincial governments.

Some Senators asked me to take the position of the FSIN Chief but I have more power as a Chief to direct that Chief to do what I want because the power is in the community.  At the same time, we need the FSIN to provide forums and a unified position on Treaty and Inherent rights.

We must make it imperative that all Chiefs be here for the next Treaty Forum.  Perhaps the directive should come from the Senate.  Treaty talks are a sacred language.

The next time we gather for Treaty discussions, I recommend that, first and foremost, we revisit the 10 Treaty principles.  We can open with reading of the principles as a Declaration.  Yesterday, I felt the strength of the many Elders sitting behind me and I want to acknowledge them today.

page 93-94, excerpt from
Chiefs' Forum on Treaty Implementation

Dakota Dunes Casino and Conference Center
March 29 & 30, 2012

shared as public document with permission from
Dan Bellegarde, Executive Director, Treaty Governance Office

CD of Chiefs' Forum on treaty Implementation available for $5.00
or free transcript is available
by contacting Dan Bellegarde at