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.