Friday, November 30, 2012
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
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 pick up
and put back on
and keep walking
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
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.
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
Monday, November 26, 2012
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
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
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
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