Monday, November 16, 2015

Treaty Essential Learnings

Native Studies Research/Inquiry Project.

This little book can help you research almost all of the topics. See the table of contents below.

Treaties: The entire book gives you information about the Treaties in Saskatchewan.

The Royal Proclamation of 1763 on page 11 and 19.
The Indian Act, 1876 on page 22; Amendments to the Indian Act on page 23; The Status Issue on page 56; and more contemporary thoughts on the Indian Act on page 57.
Colonialism Federal First Nation Legislation, 1867 on page 22; The Indian Act on page 22; "The Davin Report, 1879 on page 22; The Department of Indian Affairs (DIA) on page 22 and more...

Land Rights: Lands in Dispute on page 51 and Maps of "Location of Historical Treaty Boundaries in Canada" and "Treaty Boundaries, Location of the First Nations and the Treaty Sites in Saskatchewan" page 71 and 72.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Open Letter to Thessalon First Nation: I am a Treaty Person of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850

I sent the following letter to Thessalon First Nation in 2013. I would like to send as an Open Letter to the citizens of the Thessalon First Nation as I remember that I am a Treaty Person of the Robinson Hurron Treaty of 1850.

March 31, 2013

Dear Chief Alfred Bisaillon of the Thessalon First Nation:

I am from Saskatchewan of Norwegian and Irish, Scotts, English decent. I am also a school teacher, and through my professional development, I have begun learning long-overdue lessons from Canadian history. Foremost, I've been learning about treaties foundational to Canadian identity, and how many of these treaties have been broken, unbalanced, or unimplemented.

In the fall of 2011, I began a blog called Treaty Walks with the purpose of sharing my learnings with others who may not be aware of Canada's treaty history. I have received encouragement that I am on the right path from both First Nations and Non First Nations friends, although we all know I have many, many miles to go.

I was born in southern Saskatchewan and currently live in the Qu'Appelle Valley; therefore, I have been focusing my learning on Treaty Four; however, while writing (and researching) a blog post this past fall about my family's immigration stories, I had an epiphany. I am also a treaty person of the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850. I can only imagine how silly that must sound in the ears of someone whose people have known they are treaty people for over 150 years. For my awkwardness, I ask your patience. For my ignorance, I ask your forgiveness.

My late grandfather, Cecil Thomas Bailey, was the middle child of Tom and Edith Bailey of Thesslon. At the last family reunion in 2003, my mother, Mary, took Grandpa to your band office. He was very proud when the person at the desk called to the back offices that "there is an elder here to see you." I am not sure who he visited with that day, but I thank you for making a 90 year old man feel honoured, welcomed, and most specially, valued. On the Monday, after the family weekend was over, my grandmother, Cecil's wife of 68 years, passed away. She had remained home in Saskatchewan after suffering a stroke. My grandpa often said that he didn't remember anything from the reunion weekend, but that he did remember visiting the band office.

I have something else to thank you for. On many occasions, Grandpa shared this story with me. When he was a little boy, about ten years old, so that must have been around 1923, he had ringworm in his eye and his bottom. One day, Frank Bamageizik was passing by the farm, and he called to my great grandfather, "Tom, that boy has ringworm. Why aren't you treating it." Grandpa said that his dad answered, "The doctors can't do anything because of where it is." Then, Mr. Bamageizic said he would return. He came back shortly with a tin (Grandpa always mentioned the type of tin, a brand name, but I forget). The tin was filled with a poultice. Mr. Bamageizic wrapped Grandpa's eyes and bottom with the medicine and left. In three days he returned, removed the bandages, and Grandpa was free from the worms. My Great Grandfather said, "Frank, why don't you share this cure with the doctors? They couldn't do anything." Grandpa would often tear up when he told us Mr. Bamageizik's reply. "Tom, they've taken our land and our livelihood. I'm not giving them our medicine, too."

I share that story to honour my grandfather and to also express my thankfulness that despite Mr. Bamageizik's clear understanding of what the newcomers had taken from his people, he shared his medicine with a little newcomer boy, my grandfather. As I learn more about Canada's history of colonialism, broken treaty, residential schools, Indian Agents, and racism, I am even more humbled by Grandpa's story, specifically Mr. Bamageizic's generosity, kindness and friendship.

While doing my limited research on the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 a few months ago, I was sad to see that your application to commemorate the War of 1812 had been denied. The news story named two individuals from Thesslon First Nation who gave their lives in that war, and it made me realize that they sacrificed for my family's forefathers.

"Chief Shingwaukonse (Little Pine) led 700 Warriors in defence of Ojibway homelands and to protect British interests from the Americans," writes staff. "Shingwaukonse’s warriors spilled much blood to save the British Colonial forces and what we know as Canada today. According to an 1819 Indian Affairs letter, Chief Wabechchake of the Crane Clan was killed in the 1813 battle at Fort George."

My Bailey relations lived side-by-side Thesslon First Nations for generations, and I know that they benefitted from your sacrifice in the War of 1812 and the Robinson Huron Treaty of 1850 as they farmed the land, raised families, and enjoyed their freedom. I am new to this history, and I have not researched my family's involvement in treaty, but I fear that the Thesslon First Nation did not benefit from treaty as my people did; this is the story I hear over and over as I learn more of Canada's treaty history.

When I heard of your application being refused, it made me want to do something, as a proud and loyal granddaughter to Cecil Baiely. So, I called my mom and told her what I'd learned. Then, I talked to my daughters. They were all supportive of me writing this letter, thanking you for this old story of Mr. Bamageizik's kindness as well as offering our friendship and advocacy in honouring your people's contributions to the War of 1812.

I am a writer and an educator. Although my mother was raised in Saskatchewan, she has maintained strong relationships within her extended Bailey relations (numbering in the hundreds), as has my sister, Andrea. As well, my daughters, 18, 15, and 10, all loved Great Grandpa Cecil. They each have a heart for social justice as does my husband.

We would like to do something to express our thankfulness and hope for an equitable future. Would we be able to help with the project that did not go ahead last spring? Would we be able to work with you on any current project or concern in which outside friendship and advocacy could be helpful? Would we be able to organize a meeting or a ceremony in the future in which we could acknowledge your sacrifice, generosity, long-suffering, and friendship?

Thank you for listening.


Sheena Koops
Fort Qu'Appelle, Saskatchewan
Treaty Four Territory

Friday, November 13, 2015

Singing Our Treaty Song for Human Rights Radio

I find Elder Alma in the Luther College Library, signing out books for her July post graduate university classes. She climbs into my truck, and I introduce her to my guitar students, Doug Song and Felicity Nokusis in the back seat. Elder Alma and Felicity soon have made connections through their Peepeekisis relatives.
We drive through Regina, heading toward Dewdney, then turn off on 8th Street to find the offices of CJTR 91.3 FM Community Radio where we will appear on the Friday Noon show, "Human Rights Radio". We have practiced "As Long as the Grass Grows: A Treaty Song from Saskatchewan" in guitar class and I have worked on the song with Alma, but this is the first time we have put it all together. 

Host, Jim Hutchings, meets us at the front door and we take the elevator to the studio. We go live in fifteen minutes, but this is enough time to get the bass plugged in and visit a little with Jim. He wants to know how to pronounce names and a bit about each of us.

Jim begins the interview reminding the listeners that I'd been on the program last Easter and had shared about my Treaty Walks and the song I'd written. He says that we've been working on the song with Elder Alma, and he asks her about the importance of Treaty and the Nehiyawak world views contributing to Treaty principles: Miyowicehtowin, Pimacihowin, and Witaskewin (getting along with others, making a living on the land, and we are one with the land.)

Then, we sing the song, and Jim is making us a recording.

After we're done singing, he asks more questions, and Felicity has the last word, talking about the importance of Treaties to our youth.

We are feeling like rock stars as we go back onto the street. It's time to celebrate and share lunch. We say our favorite restaurants and Doug adds, "Korea House". Elder Alma says, "Let's go to the young man's restaurant and share in his culture."

We order beef, noodles, rice and all of Doug's favorites. Felicity is helping Elder Alma learn how to use chopsticks. We are laughing and talking about which dishes are too hot or just right.

Before we drop Elder Alma back at Luther College, she has business at city hall, so the kids and I wait out front, under the flags: Canada, Saskatchewan, Royal Union Jack, Regina, Treaty 4, and Metis.

Felicity, who I've known as Sweet most of her life, she and I take a selfie to send to Moira, my middle daughter. I couldn't be happier!

Elder Alma and Delma sharing teaching on Miyowicehtowin, Pimacihowin, and Witaskewin (getting along with others, making a living on the land, and we are one with the land.)

"As Long as the Grass Grows" which can be found on youtube.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Treaty Walk in Late Summer the Morning after My First Sweat

My cousin Angela and I walked into the little building behind the All Nations Healing Hospital in Fort Qu'Appelle. There was a lodge covered in canvas at the far side of the rectangular building. There was carpet on the ground. We could smell sage as Elder Alma welcomed us and introduced us to her daughters and daughter-in-law. We were invited to sit and wait for everyone to arrive.

Elder Alma explained some of the protocol, and continued explaining as she brought out her pipe. There was a lot of laughter and humility as Alma and her daughters (also pipe carriers) talked through the experience with each other and also explaining for our benefit. We were family among family, and it was a powerful introduction to my first sweat.

Elder Alma Poitras' daughter, Evelyn Poitras, had asked her mother to hold this sweat to bring blessing to Evelyn's initiative, Treaty Law School, to take place at the First Nations University of Canada in Regina for the next week.

After sharing in the pipe ceremony, we then began to learn the protocol of the sweat lodge. We did four rounds in the darkness of the lodge. It was very much like the prayer circles I've attended in my own faith tradition, minus the physical exhaustion of the heat. I could write much more, but I'm not sure of the protocol of speaking about such sacred moments.

The next morning I took a Treaty Walk through the beautiful Qu'Appelle Valley. I anticipated seeing the women again on Friday when Elder Alma and I would share our Treaty song at the Treaty Law School.




Saturday, November 7, 2015

Treaty Walking All the Way to Treaty Ed Camp

I can smell the smoldering sage, soft on the air, as we sit in a great, big circle -- just the women -- and we are introduced to the pipe carrier and the pipe she carries. She is accompanied by her husband who sits directly in front of her, inside the circle. He will be her helper through the ceremony. This is how we start the day in a good way, after a prayer and after a song, we share in ceremony. This is also a time of prayer.

The organizers are calling today, Treaty Ed Camp. We are gathered in room 230 of the Education Preparation Centre at the University of Regina. Others -- men, women, two spirited -- are participating in the Blanket Exercise, facilitated in four other rooms.

The helper kneels, offering a bowl of sage slowly around the circle, from woman to woman. I switch my sitting style many times, my legs folded to one side, then the other, and finally my feet stretched in front of me, crossed at the ankles, my grandmother's moccasins keeping my feet warm and beautiful. I have wrapped my cardigan over my lap as I have been shown is a respectful way of being. I have removed my necklace, earrings, glasses, and even my wedding band, as an act of leaving the shiny, flashy things behind and coming to the Creator as simply me.

As we are invited to smudge we hear of the ongoing journey of becoming a pipe carrier. When the sage reaches me, I am happy to receive this gift, an opportunity to cleanse my mind, body, spirit and emotion. I have seen an elder I admire smudge her moccasins, and I remember to pass some of the smoke along my legs to my feet. The helper asks if I want to smudge my moccasins and I say yes. He brings the bowl to my feet and I cup the smoke with my hands and smooth it over my moccasins twice. "Thank you," I say.

Soon our leader begins a prayer and the pipe is now passing as the teaching continues, full of story, grace and questioning. The pipe is now in front of me and I receive it, my right hand at the base, my left hand near my mouth. I breathe in deeply as the helper lights a match and keeps the pipe burning. Over and over I am praying for deep wisdom, deep love, deep kindness, and deep epieikeia, a sweet justice, a perfect way forward.

We go about our sessions. I hear about an art project which is a spin off from a Treaty Walk my students and I shared with some Arts Education students from the University of Regina. I hear our students and staff debrief their Blanket Exercise activity. I listen to the history and modern reclaiming of Two Spirited identity in Indigenous cultures. I share my Treaty Song: As Long as the Grass Grows

At the end of the day we are asked, what is one word you feel about today. Teachers and pre-service teachers answer: inspiring, hope, truth, awesome, wonderful. I think "peace".

Later in the day, after a visit to my brother's new home above Echo Lake, I stop to take a picture, remembering this beautiful land my family was invited to share through the signing of Treaty Four, September 15, 1874.

Then I go to the school and put my moccasins on my desk. I bought these in Black Lake, Treaty 8 Territory, and gave them to my Grandma Lavine. When she passed, they came back to me.

I am remembering my grandmother and my mother, both teachers, and following in their footsteps, with the help of the Creator, I will keep Treaty Walking.