Saturday, October 1, 2016

Since We Last Met

Since we last met, my Treaty Walk has been like a reality tv show and now I'm waiting for an editor to come along and help me pull out clips to tell the story.

Perhaps to get started the editor would ask the question, "What is a Treaty Walk?"

I might reply. A treaty walk is like going to the garden -- back in the days when I lived at home and going to the garden meant fighting my way through Dad's long rows of corn, squash, pumpkin, beans, peas, swiss chard, carrots, beats, and potatoes -- and picking something from the earth. A treaty walk is like taking that good gift from the land and preparing it for my own nourishment or to share with others.

"All well and good," says the editor. "Can you tell me more? How about completing some of these prompts?"

One highlight I've experienced with my Treaty Walk is...

One assumption for me in working with Treaty Education is...

The most important thing for me on my Treaty Walk is...

My most awkward moment Treaty Walking since we last met is...

Yesterday, I tell the editor, I experienced a highlight on my Treaty Walks. We shared an Orange Shirt Gathering at our school. One of my adult students, Michael Cardinal, in Oski-pimohtahtamwak otayisīniwiwaw (they are into their new journey to knowledge) closed our gathering playing Led Zeppelin's "The Rain Song" because the sun will shine after the rain or storm, he told us.  




One assumption for me in working in Treaty Education is that it is easy for educators to understand how important it is to show up at events where indigenous peoples are offering us gifts, Treaty gifts of miyowîcêhtowin (getting along together); pimâcihowin (making a living on the land); wîtaskêwin (being one with the land) and wâhkôhtowin (practicing our kinship). For example, bringing students to the Treaty Four Gathering in Fort Qu'Appelle, in the week of September 15 each year, should be easy. I see now, this is an assumption, but it does get easier, I'd like to tell people. Once you've been there once, you'll understand how to come back the next time. But the first thing is to just go, is to show up, as I remember Dr. Shawneen Pete and Dr. Mike Cappello reminding us at the 2014 SAFE conference. Sheena August, Prairie Valley School Division communications officer, and I had great discussions about the importance of experiencing something before understanding. Sheena (we had so much fun being two Sheena's) got right into the spirit of things, working with Arwen to get the tipi pole back in the flap as she had been shown to do earlier, if it slipped out.

The most important thing for me on my Treaty Walks is to remember that Treaty is about relationships, and relationships need opportunity, time, nurturing, sunlight, rain, and wind to grow. Treaty Walking is not a checklist of activities on a bucket list. It is going about regular life, being mindful of the great gifts and opportunities envisioned in the Treaties. I'm thinking about running into Daya Madhur and Claire Krueger at the Treaty Four Gathering, and there they were, going about their lives, huge smiles, cameras slung around their necks, backpacks ready for a day on the land as Treaty people, as Treaty educators.



My most awkward moment since we last met... oh there are so many. It might have been trying to get a good picture of His Excellency David Johnson, Governor General of Canada as he visited Treaty Four Grounds for the first time in his life, and was the first representative of the Queen to return to meet with the crown's treaty partners in 142, since the Treaty was signed. I had to dodge security, media, well-wishers, and handlers. I did get a few with him talking with my friend, Maddie Sanderson. I also helped arrange that my husband, Michael's grade 12 Canadian Studies class was able to witness the nation to nation speeches and meeting, but that wasn't really awkward. Now I'm just bragging.


"Well, now I have something to work with," says the editor. "But what about our next episode? Let's do an A-Z brainstorm for Treaty Walks."

Awkward
B
C
D
E
F
G
H
I
J
K
L
M
N
O
P
Q
R
S
T
U
V
W
X
Y
Z

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Feast Kit for Monday Afternoon

Imagine spending the afternoon sitting on a blanket and enjoying time with women, or if you're a guy, sitting with other men, and sharing a meal, served by young men in our community. Imagine this circle, together as Treaty people, accepting the gifts we have to offer one another as good neighbours.

If you've never been to a traditional feast before, why not join us on Monday at noon, on the Treaty Four grounds.
  • Bring some food to share. One of the following would be great: soup, fruit, bannock, juice boxes (please deliver by 11:45 to the announcer’s booth set up area).
  • Bring a feast kit: carry away bag, multiple size plastic containers or jars with lids (for eating and take away), spoon, fork, knife, serviettes, plate, wipes if you like.
  • Blanket to sit on or a chair if you are elderly or unable to sit on the ground. 
  • Women, wear long skirts or wrap around and do not sit crossed legged, but with knees to the side.
  • Selected young men will serve the food until it is all distributed.
  • Women sit together on one side and men sit together on the other side.
  • Women on their cycle (moon time) are asked to sit outside the circle to respect their power.
Here's a picture of my feast bag:


 
FEAST KIT:
  • Carry away bag,
  • multiple size plastic containers or
  • jars with lids for (for eating and take away),
  • spoon,
  • fork,
  • knife,
  • serviettes,
  • plate, and
  • wipes if you like.
  • Blanket to sit on.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Empowering Women: Weaving Stories, Inspiring Action

  • To listen to stories of families directly affected by Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
  • To weave stars in honour of Treaty Four women to add to the One Million Stars to End Violence Project. www.onemillionstars.net
  • To generate ideas to send to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
Monday, September 12th
6:00-9:00pm
Large Teepee at the Treaty 4 Governance Centre
Fort Qu'Appelle, SK
 
Appetizers by the Sioux Chef
 
All Welcome by invitation of the
Faculty of Education at the University of Regina.
 
Come for the Feast at Noon.
Relax the afternoon away in the valley.
Join us for Monday evening's conversation. 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Analyze the Overall Effectiveness of the Blanket Exercise Presentation: ECS Students Reflect

For Aboriginal Storytelling month last February, four students from Bert Fox Community High School were invited to the Estevan Comprehensive School to present the Blanket Exercise which tells the history of Canada through the voices of indigenous peoples. The blankets represent the land and participants play the role of sovereign indigenous peoples. The facilitators play the role of Europeans who first come to the land as friends, but as the power begins to shift, and Treaties are broken, assimilation and colonization become a reality.  http://kairosblanketexercise.org/about
 
 
 
 
 
 
Tim Lee and James Jones, teachers at the Estevan Comp, assigned reflection questions. This is the last of five questions asked.

Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation.
  • The presentation is both visual and verbal. That's twice the effectiveness.
  • The overall effectiveness of this presentation was that it makes you stop and think about how we never hear about what happened to the Aboriginal peoples. Kind of like it's Canada's dirty little secret.
  • The presentation was an eye opening experience.
  • To me this presentation was very effective. Many people are visual learners and learn by being involved. This is what made the presentation so effective. After being involved I have become more aware of how poorly First Nations were treated. With the Blanket Exercise it made it clear that they were pushed off the land and sent to Residential Schools. By standing on the blankets and having them become smaller as the years went on shows the little room they had.
  • They could have read slower.
  • I think the presentation had a large affect on those who listened and cared. However, I think quite a few didn't care and weren't interested at all, and in those people the presentation fell on deaf ears. In everyone else, myself included, it educated us about the feelings of the First Nations. No other devices used to teach at schools can make you feel what it would even slightly have been like, and the blanket exercise did. That feeling of understanding makes you care more about it, and when you care about a topic, it makes you want to learn about it, to do something about it. And that's what I think this presentation made people do, care.
  • To me the overall effectiveness was great because everyone was mature, everyone was in a serious stage, listening to what actually happened in our world, maybe not our lifetime, but our grandparents and even parents. Racism was a big thing to the Aboriginal peoples and it is still going on today. It was hard to hear some of their stories, but in general, they got through it and made us more aware of what was going on around us. They were very educated about the topic. They genuinely cared about the topic and showed that they wanted to get their story out to us. They were passionate and well educated about their topic. They got their point across very well by using hands on activities and I was more into it because it was hands on and not reading from a textbook.
  • Very well thought out. They were well prepared, rehearsed a lot. You could tell because they had lots of writing on their scripts. It would be effective for grade eights because it was powerful. They were not scared to yell and get the point across. I give them credit for doing the presentation in front of three classes of kids their same age.
  • Overall it was about a 4 out of 5. It does teach you a thing or two, but in my opinion, all Native Study activities are focused around the same thing. Though this was by far the most interesting and interactive presentation I have attended. there's lots of people that need to be included in order to learn, and I feel that this is a very good teaching method, especially at a high school level. It's also effective because those who were presenting were of the same age group which was nice for a change. Much better than a corpse talking for a droning hour.
  • I felt that the presentation was very effective as it caused me to critically think about what I could do to inspire action. It made me also realize how ignorant I can be about cultures other than my own. I also felt that the fact that the presenters were youth like us made the presentation more effective. It made it easier to understand as well as easier to relate to. I also felt that since the presenters were our age, I found that it was easier to pay attention to them as I understand how hard it is to stand in front of a group of peers and present. Lastly, I found that the use of visuals in the presentation made the information easier to understand.
  • Overall, the presentation was amazing in the sense of effectiveness! The fact that they had us participate not only as standing on the blankets being "natives" but they also had us read scrolls about the history of it all. They engaged us very well and really helped us visualize how traumatic and REAL the situations were. I took in a lot of knowledge that I hadn't known prior to the presentation and the fact that they were all our age made it even better. I wouldn't change a thing about the presentation.
  • If the girls made us sit on the bleachers and listen to them talk, then I can assure you that most people would be on their phones. The girls seemed to be very passionate on the subject because as they said, it's our shared history. I can tell that our presenters really did enjoy doing this.
  • I think the overall effectiveness of the presentation was moderate. For people, such as myself, who are uncomfortable in tight groups of people, I found myself unable to maintain focus as I was too busy trying not to bump into someone. I believe that getting the audience involved is a great idea, however, many people are unwilling to speak in front of their peers and because of this, I was unable to hear what people were reading off of the scrolls. Other than those two points, the presentation was effective. I understood what information I received.
  • The overall effectiveness was very powerful in different ways like when they gave me the baby, and I held it for a while, then they took it away. I felt a bit sad. If that were my real baby, and it got taken away, I'd be heartbroken. Everything that they read actually happened (not to them necessarily) but to their people. We learned that just because it didn't happen to us doesn't mean it didn't effect us in a way. Considering it was presented by our peers made it more understandable from their perspectives.
  • I think the Blanket Exercise was very effective because it went over a lot of information in a short amount of time. They used information that was easy to understand. They had everyone participate and play a role. The only thing I didn't like was how fast they spoke and I couldn't really understand them sometimes.
  • The presentation was extremely effective. One of the major ways it was effective was it was done by grade elven and twelve students. It wasn't just someone rambling on and on. We were asked to participate, too. When they began to make the blankets smaller you started to really see and feel first hand what they went through. It almost made you realize your "life was at risk" to be kicked off the blankets and "die". After the presentation the leaders were able to speak and the girl in my group was able to share some of her own experiences as part Aboriginal. That really shows that you can't judge a book by it's cover. Overall the presentation was just awesome to experience.
  • This presentation is effective because you don't sit for an hour and listen to facts. You are moving around and acting out the things that actually happened. You see what happened and you get a very clear picture of it because they put you in their shoes and move you around and take land and then send you away and take babies then all of a sudden people die off. As well they were very passionate about the topic. They made you play along and play a part in it to help you learn and understand. They were always moving around and walking around the circle.
  • The presentation was a lot different than I expected it. I expected us to just sit on the blanket and listen to stories told by grade 12's. Instead, we were included in the presentation and got to read the Treaties and the laws that the European's implemented on the Aboriginals. We were given papers, and when you had a certain colour paper you could be killed by smallpox or other disease brought by Europeans. Many were killed and their children (baby dolls) were taken to Residential School. I believe that grade 12 students presented this to us gave it more of a personalized feeling. You were yelled at  by one of the girls pretending to be a European and it actually scared you a little. It was nice having it put into a real situation, not just having it read to you. This way you got to partake in the storytelling and it was really enjoyable. It was serious and yet intriguing, waiting to find out who dies next. Personally, I don't think it would be as effective on elementary (6, 7, 8) grades because they aren't mature enough to understand the seriousness of the situation. The language is harder and it could need to be adapted to their form of understanding. I believe that the presentation was very effective and influenced a great deal of the group.
  • This was a very effective presentation. It gave us a chance to participate and a small chance to see what it was like. It was also good to see that it was people our age presenting, proving that we can make a difference and pass this information along and make the future better.
  • I believe that the presentation was effective because it got us involved and made us see how poorly First Nations were treated. It opened my eyes to see how the people were treated and made me think of ways to fix our relationships.
  • The effectiveness of the presentation is actually quite a bit. It's not making me go out and donating money to First Nations people, but it really puts our past into perspective. Although it's not nearly as intense as it would have been for when it happened, but it is at a nice scale where people can take it in and realize what happened. The Blanket Exercise is something I will never forget and when people ask about what happened in our nation's past it will now be easier to explain and easier for them to learn.
There were a few sheets with comments like, "We could have learned more in class. It was a normal presentation to me. Honestly, I learned nothing. None of it was emotional to me. This did not inspire me. Some of it may inspire and others it may not. It didn't really have any effect on me."
 
But as you can see from the responses above, it was overwhelmingly well-received and an optimum educational experience for all involved.
 
 
 
 
Note. Excerpts from the ECS reflections on the Blanket Exercise can be found on Treaty Walks question by question on the following dates:
 
1. What was your general impression or thoughts about the Blanket Exercise? Did you enjoy participating? August 14th, 2016
 
2. What did you learn from Friday's presentation? August 23rd, 2016
 
3. What was the most emotional moment for you? Why was it emotional? Consider the speaker's values, perspective, biases and tone. August 29th, 2016
 
4. The Blanket Exercise is designed to inspire action. How could an event like this inspire people? What could we do? September 2nd, 2016
 
5. Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation. September 9th, 2016

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Just Like Our Grandmother: Help from Elder Alma


Truth, Jerrett (JJ), Sebastian (Shorty), Sheena, and Ashton with Elder Alma



"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Truth. "I learned a few things about sweetgrass and smudging, and what you're supposed to do with it after you're done using it. You take all the ashes and put them somewhere in your environment that's really quiet. I felt really good and happy when Elder Alma was with us because of the sudden deaths we have experienced. I will remember our class because it's the best class I've had so far. When Elder Alma said her own language, it made me feel like everyone should learn their own language. She reminded me of my grandmother. She's exactly the same, I think."

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Jerrett. "I learned a lot of different things that day about Residential school, my culture, and not only just my culture. She said a lot about the Europeans and such, meanings about life and it was a pretty good feeling to have."

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Shorty. "I learned about certain medicine, how to treat them, and how to thank them after you are done using them. I felt comfortable when we spoke with her as if she was my own grandmother. I will remember all the stories she told us and the teachings she left with us. She reminded me of my grandmother who passed away, just how sweet she was, along with her wise words."

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Sheena. "Since the beginning of the school year, we have learned of three deaths of former colleagues. One of the women worked very closely with some of us, and we were looking forward to working with her this year. The other woman and her husband had worked with many of us, closely, in the past. Our school is grieving, so Elder Alma agreed to come and help us in this difficult time. She led a smudge and a talking circle for any staff or students who wanted to participate. She came back with us to our room. I'll always remember how she told the young men that she was so proud of them, that they were like her grandsons. She said that when older people see young people, so respectful, learning what they need to learn, that they make the old people so happy."

"We were honoured to have Elder Alma in our class," says Ashton. "I was actually grateful to her for teaching us how to handle the sweet grass and sage after we were done. It reminded me back in the days when she used to teach me Cree. She asked me to read some Cree words, and I kind of got it. It was very good to see her again, because I haven't seen her in a while. After the smudge, it made me feel more open minded. It made me feel good."

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pimātisihwin / Kiskinohamāsowin

It's not every day that you get to sit beside an elder and record her thoughts as she creates an English literacy program for adult learners as one of the requirements in her university class as she works on her Masters of Education. For me, in late August, I was honoured to be Kete-ayah Alma Poitras' secretary for four days. it was four days. Occasionally, she would begin storytelling. I felt like I was sitting on the edge of her worldview -- not my own -- and seeing, listening, smelling, tasting and touching with my own senses.

With Alma's permission, I will share her introduction.


 

"Introduction" to "The Interconnectedness of Pimātisihwin / Kiskinohamāsowin: Level One and Two Literacy for First Nations’ Adult Learners"

by Alma Poitras

"I am a First Nations Educator from Peepeekisis, one of the five File Hills First Nations. File Hills is also known as Kiskimanacihk in the Plains Cree language. My goal for the future is to create a program that will meet, both the First Nations Cree literacy skills and their English literacy skills. For this assignment I will only focus on the Low Literacy needs in English for the group I have chosen to create the program for which is First Nations Adults from File Hills and particularly young parents, both male and female, ages ranging from 19 to 35 years.

"Pimātisihwin / Kiskinohamāsowin means how an individual or person goes about gathering knowledge and learning throughout their lifetime, and putting these experiences, and using these experiences in teaching themselves. It is a contextualized learning with the learner in the centre, with all the other aspects that come to make that learning possible for the individual. It’s all those experiences, gathered throughout their lifetime, or as they grow from infant, youth, adulthood and kētēh-ayak (old ones) getting knowledge which makes it possible to make meaning. This helps the learner to be successful. There is a continuation of adding from prior knowledge which helps increase many possibilities of doing and improving different level of needs of that individual’s four aspects of their inner self: mind, physical, spirit, emotional. We learn from things around us, in our First Nations’ perspectives, we learn from nature, from the animals, from the flyers, from the swimmers, from the four legged, the medicines, the elements, the sky-life and the earth, and also the two-legged. You cannot live without going about and learning from your surroundings. You are learning to make a better life for yourself, your family, and your community. This is Pimātisihwin. Life is possible because of using all the resources that are there for us."


 
 
As I typed Alma's thoughts, they directly related to the new program I am developing at my high school. In the background of our "selfie" you can see the beginnings of my unit plans focusing on the Treaty Four Gathering in Fort Qu'Appelle, September 12-18, 2016.
 
I hope to utilize Pimātisihwin / Kiskinohamāsowin as my students and I go about gathering knowledge from all around us. I hope we are able to share what we are learning with all we meet. I also want to thank Kete-ayah Alma for her generosity and teachings. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Conversation with a White Elder: Anonymous Awakening




Hi Sheena. This will be a bit of a ramble...I read your lovely gentle blog this morning...the discussion of racism and privilege goes around and around in my brain. It started with my own upbringing in the late 40s and early 50s...one of total ignorance of Aboriginal people. The only "Indians" I ever saw were at the Regina exhibition where they had a row of tipis...then, as a teenager as a kid at the beach. I vaguely knew a of residential schools. So, essentially I was ignorant and indifferent. In the 80s I knew two families who had "scooped" children and the resulting problems associated with these kids as they became adults. Again, ignorant and indifferent. During my years working in the arts, the artists, especially Bob Boyer, and curator Lee Ann Martin were instrumental in opening my eyes. It was more of a spiritual perspective that they gave me. Invaluable. But, I didn't acknowledge or even know that white privilege existed until the Truth and Reconciliation process began. I do now. I understand it. It is a process for me. Baby steps. I have to let go of many things...we/they, fear, old attitudes, my own shame for not knowing, not caring while these people endured so much. Keep writing. Be patient with me! I'm listening. Thank you.

Absolutely beautiful, J. Would you be interested in me publishing this on my blog as a letter? I think we need to hear from our newcomer elders, like you.

I have no problem with that...but please don't use my name. Simply because it's MY process...my journey...and intensely personal. I haven't been able to have this conversation with very many people...they don't want to hear it. I've lived 70 some years with a flawed perspective. And at this point I'm not very happy about that. I'm asking you to take my hand. Walk with me.

I'm very happy to do so. We could record these conversations anonymously, so others, who are also feeling the awkwardness in the newness-of-it-all can read your words and know they are not alone. I'm happy to have these conversations privately, too. Thank you for your trust in me as you share these deeply personal awakenings.

Thanks Sheena. Keep writing. I'll keep rambling. Lurching. Finding my footing. Thunder. A weekend with family. Summer's almost over... Let's enjoy every moment...even if it rains!

Well said. I always tell people, "Go forth and be awkward." I think your rambling and lurching has a lot of poetry going on, too.

 

Sunday, September 4, 2016

You are Invited to the Treaty Four Feast on September 12th




Preparations are in full swing for the Treaty Four Gathering
September 12-18, 2016
 
You are invited to the Treaty Four Traditional Feast
Monday, noon, September 12th
Treaty Four Pow Wow Grounds

We are all Treaty people.
 

Never been to a Traditional Feast? Here's what you need to know:
 
  • Bring some food to share. One of the following would be great: soup, fruit, bannock, juice boxes (please deliver by 11:45 to the announcer’s booth set up area).
  • Bring a feast kit: carry away bag, multiple size plastic containers or jars with lids (for eating and take away), spoon, fork, knife, serviettes, plate, wipes if you like.
  • Blanket to sit on or a chair if you are elderly or unable to sit on the ground. 
  • Women, wear long skirts or wrap around and do not sit crossed legged, but with knees to the side.
  • Elders can bring a chair, if needed.
  • Selected young men will serve the food until it is all distributed.
  • Women sit together on one side and men sit together on the other side.
  • Women on their cycle (moon time) are asked to sit outside the circle to respect their power.
 
If you have questions that I can answer (from a newcomer’s or educator’s perspective), feel free to email me, sheena.koops@pvsd.ca or call at Bert Fox Community High School 306.332.4343.
 
Note: Invitation sent in consultation with Tracy Pasqua, Chair of Treaty 4 Gathering Events.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How Does a Saskatchewan Farmer Honour the Treaties?

My brother, Ian, proud sheep farmer for two years.


I grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan, and I am proud of my heritage. Many farming families came to this land, opened by Treaties, escaping oppression. I have always thought that as farming-folk learn of the oppression -- the genocide -- experienced by First peoples, there should be a natural solidarity between our peoples. I have heard stories of this being the case, of our peoples being good neighbours.

Mae Wesley, a settler descendant elder in the Edgely farming community which neighbours Pasqua First Nation, told me that her dad always said, "If you make a friend with an Indian, you have a friend for life." My own father's grandmother, as a late 1800's bride in the Estevan area, received half a deer, cleaned and hanging in a tree. A gift from her Indigenous neighbours.

On the other hand, what can I say to fellow farmers utilizing the tragedy of August 9th in Biggar, Saskatchewan, as an opportunity to illustrate ignorance. Ignorance of the Treaties, ignorance of privilege, ignorance of colonization, ignorance of genocide, ignorance of the gifts we have been given by the First peoples of this land?

When I heard that the councilor who resigned (after making blatantly racist remarks on social media) was from Lampman, where I was born, I knew I needed to reach out. While visiting my kids in Estevan, I almost drove to Lampman to see if I could find the family. My daughters insisted that it wasn't the right time. Instead, I phoned the National Farmers' Union. I wanted to speak to whoever wrote the press release extending condolences to the Bushie family and condemning racism. "We also commit ourselves to building relationships of solidarity, mutual respect, and friendship with our indigenous neighbours, and honouring our obligations as Treaty people," the NFU concluded.

I spoke with Cathy Holtslander from the National Farmers Union. I thanked her and her organization for their leadership. I asked what actions they intended as they make good on their commitments. We talked for a while, sharing ideas back and forth, and good books kept entering the discussion. Thomas King's Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native American People in North America; Sarah Carter's Lost Harvests: Prairie Indian Reserve Farmers and Government Policy; James Daschuck's Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics of Starvation, and the Loss of Aboriginal Life; and Paulette Reagan's Unsettling the Settler Within: Indian Residential Schools, Truth Telling, and Reconciliation in Canada.

This conversation, has got me thinking. What does it mean to be a farmer? What is my farm family's Treaty story? From which Treaty promises have my family benefited? Have Treaty promises been kept to our Indigenous Treaty partners? If so, what are those benefits? If not, why? How does a Saskatchewan farmer honour the Treaties?

http://www.nfu.ca/story/nfu-expresses-condolences-family-colten-boushie



My neice and their Llamas (named Sheeps and Momma).

Friday, September 2, 2016

How Could an Event Like the Blanket Exercise Inspire People? ECS Students Reflections

For Aboriginal Storytelling month last February, four students from Bert Fox Community High School were invited to the Estevan Comprehensive School to present the Blanket Exercise which tells the history of Canada through the voices of indigenous peoples. The blankets represent the land and participants play the role of sovereign indigenous peoples. The facilitators play the role of Europeans who first come to the land as friends, but as the power begins to shift, and Treaties are broken, assimilation and colonization become a reality.  http://kairosblanketexercise.org/about
 
 
Leeza, Eraine, Mercedes and Tomika
BFCHS students lead Blanket Exercise at ECS
 
 
"Events like this inspire people because as the girl said, 'it's our shared history.'"
 
 
Tim Lee and James Jones, teachers at the Estevan Comp, assigned reflection questions. This is the fourth of five questions asked.

The Blanket Exercise is designed to inspire action. How could an event like this inspire people? What could we do?
  • An event like this inspires people by teaching them about what has happened in the past. We could now continue to pass down the information we learned.
  • By folding the blankets we see what is the lives of indigenous peoples. An event like this inspires people because then they visualize what had happened to the Aboriginals and that what they went through is still a reality to most. We could stop saying they should get over it because that's like saying to the families who died in concentration camps to get over what happened and move on.
  • It could inspire people to become more informed about the issues of First Nations people and to take more or any action about it. WE could do any number of things; educate more people, raise money, raise awareness, demand more from our government for their rights. However, I believe the most important thing would be to be more compassionate, understanding and be less judgmental and prejudice.
  • It could inspire people because people could look at them and wonder why they're so happy now. Well, the girl leading my group says that she didn't have a choice but to be happy because as she grew up she had her family with her and her family really helped through the rough patch of her life. It already does inspire people because it shows that something needs to be done and everyone needs to be treated fairly. We owe something to the First Nations for what they have been through.
  • It exposes the terrible fat on what the Europeans did. It kind of leaves you feeling like, wow, that kind of sucks that we just invaded them. But at the same time, what's done is done. I know nothing of a solution to how to resolve it.
  • We could do the Blanket Exercise with other classes or even kids in elementary school. I know that if I would have been able to do this visual and interactive exercise when I first learned about First Nations history, it would have helped me to truly understand what happened. This could inspire people to stop being ignorant about Aboriginal culture possibly.
  • The event itself is very inspirational, not in a sense of that you can do anything, but in the sense that it might push people to change their opinion and attitude towards things. If you were completely ignorant to the bad things that happened, then this exercise could change your viewpoint on natives. We in turn could spread awareness to stop racism and just help people understand what has happened in our history.
  • It's designed to teach in a way we understand. Events like this inspire people because as the girl said, it's our shared history. We don't have to do anything big, a simple conversation on the topic would be enough.
  • The Blanket Exercise could inspire people through a physical learning environment, getting people involved almost cements the ideas taught into someone's mind. To inspire people we could promote more people to do similar exercises at our school every year.
  • An event like this could inspire people to take this to younger schools and introduce it to the younger generation.
  • An event like this could inspire people by showing them what actually happened and how hard things were. Now that people know what happened, they can help others understand and then stereotypes might stop.
  • It could inspire people to quit being racist and quit thinking that they are better than everyone. We could make sure everyone is treated equally and no one gets bullied or treated badly.
  • It could inspire people to look into their heritage and see if they are Aboriginal, if they don't already know. It could inspire people to get involved in groups that support the Aboriginal people and take action. We could continue to have this presentation in schools and maybe provide it for adults to experience too, so that everyone understands what the people went through.
  • An event like this can inspire people because it is showing them what actually happened so that they know what they are supporting.
  • They could realize that sometimes just raising money doesn't fix all of the problems. People need to see a presentation like this from young people.
  • When we learn about Aboriginal history it's usually just brushed over. This Blanket Exercise inspires us because we see that we were a part of their fate. We can help change this by personally stopping racism against Aboriginal peoples. Racism causes many people to doubt their worth. We can be friends with people that are experiencing criticism from peers. It could encourage people to go to support groups and find out if they have an Aboriginal heritage.
  • It inspires people by putting people in their shoes. It's much easier to fight for a cause if you know how it felt. There is no substitute for what they went through but since we now have a better understanding of the full effects of it, we can tell people about it and spread the word so they can get back the land they deserve.
  • The Blanket Exercise inspires people because the presentation involves everyone. When you're involved you are learning and aware of what's going on. Since we weren't there at the time that this occurred in real life, the Blanket Exercise has the same impact, bringing awareness.
  • The Blanket Exercise could inspire people by showing them how it felt to be Native back when the Europeans came to North America. This would inspire them to help out Natives instead of keeping them segregated from our society. I honestly can't think of anything we could do besides treating them well and like normal people.
  • It could inspire people to want to change the world and the relationship between First Nations and the people who stole their land.


 
 
 

Note. Excerpts from the ECS reflections on the Blanket Exercise can be found on Treaty Walks question by question on the following dates:
 
1. What was your general impression or thoughts about the Blanket Exercise? Did you enjoy participating? August 14th, 2016
 
2. What did you learn from Friday's presentation? August 23rd, 2016
 
3. What was the most emotional moment for you? Why was it emotional? Consider the speaker's values, perspective, biases and tone. August 29th, 2016
 
4. The Blanket Exercise is designed to inspire action. How could an event like this inspire people? What could we do? September 2nd, 2016
 
5. Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation. September 9th, 2016

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Flying the Treaty Flags

Our first professional development day is over at Bert Fox Community High School. We were inspired by elders, workshops with the Office of the Treaty Commissioner and the File Hills Police Services. As I am checking emails at the end of the day, I see a note from my friend in Dinsmore, Karen Jones, a fellow teacher keen to walk as an ally in her rural community. We met this past summer at the Historical Thinking Summer Institute in Vancouver.

"I need to share my first steps on this journey," writes Karen.  "I was honoured to sing our national anthem at our Division-wide PD Day in Rosetown and knew that I would have both a microphone and a minute to talk, so I decided to speak before I sang.  It went like this.

"I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered here today on Treaty 6 Territory, traditional home of the Plains Cree and other Indigenous peoples.  As we sing this song, let us think about the joy our Olympic coaches and athletes brought us on the world stage; let us think about the gift that Gord Downie and the Hip gave us as they performed this summer on what could be their last stage; but let us also remember that we are all Treaty Partners as we walk, struggle, and stumble our way towards Reconciliation."

 "You made my day," I write back to Karen. Then I ask permission to post her thoughts on my Treaty Walks blog.

My principal, Jason, pops into my classroom, just as I'm getting ready to leave. We talk about the letter that we'll send home to parents, outlining the events at the Treaty Four Gathering. I am blessed professionally by my administrations' dedication to walk as Treaty partners and allies, creating, "Spaces for Understanding" as Dr. Sean Lessard helped us envision earlier in the keynote address.

I push out the front doors of the school, arms full of teacher-stuff. I look up to the blue sky, and there, waving in the wind, backlit by the sun, are three flags on three giant flag poles. Closest to me flies the red and white Canada flag, then the green and yellow Saskatchewan flag, and closest to the sun flies the white, blue, green, and yellow Treaty Four flag.

I run back into the school. "Jason," I call into the office. "When did the flags go up?"

"Just today," he says.

I head back outside, put all my teacher-stuff down, and do my first photo shoot of the new flags, but there are four poles and only three flags.

"Aren't they majestic," Jason says, walking toward me in the parking lot.

"Is the fourth pole for the British Flag?" I say.

"No, the Metis flag."

"Perfect," I say.

We stand and admire the flags whipping in the wind. The grass is green around us; the sun is shining overhead; the Qu'Appelle River flowing through our four calling lakes.

"Flying these flags together, in this way, tells a story," I say. "This is our Canadian story."

 
 
 

 
 




 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Hope for Canada: Tomika Pinay Reflects on the Blanket Exercise

For ten months, four young women from Bert Fox Community High School -- Tomika Pinay, Mercedes Tupone, Leeza Curin, and Eraine Croucamp -- were called on by teachers, community members, university professors, and organizations to present "The Blanket Exercise" an interactive experience, developed by Kairos, which brings "Canada's Indigenous history up to the surface" as Tomika says. "The blanket exercise isn't meant to point the finger of blame or shame toward settler descendants, it's a tool to bring us together to work, and towards a better future. It's not about what we can do to fix the past, it's about what we can do to fix the now."
 
The following is a reflection written by Tomika.
 
Leeza, Mercedes, Tomika, and Eraine
after presenting the Blanket Exercise at the Estevan Comprehensive School
 
Hope for Canada
by Tomika Pinay
 
"The first time I participated in the blanket exercise I was overcome with sadness. I was upset because I did not know how awful the things my ancestors had to experience. I was heartbroken that the indigenous history of Canada has been hidden and forgotten about. After the initial feelings of sadness a small, inkling of pride crept upon me. There have been so many attempts to annihilate our cultures, but we are still here. After the government's attempts to "kill the Indian in the child" and to erase our history, we are still here. It is a miracle that our indigenous cultures are still such a huge part of who we are. Canada's Indigenous people are still living, breathing, and walking on this earth, are still a part of Turtle Island. 
 
"My most memorable experience facilitating the blanket exercise was one of the first times Leeza, Eraine, and I performed the exercise at the UofR. At this particular time, we were presenting to a university class, but I can't remember which one. The class was very respectful and fully participated in the exercise. There was one young man who I'd had the chance to speak to, and his feelings on the exercise at first were very negative. He told me that the exercise brought on feelings of blame and shame. That isn't what the Blanket exercise is about. It's about bringing Canada's Indigenous history up to the surface. We cannot change the past no matter what we do, we can only move on from now and change our futures. Our job as treaty people is to acknowledge our past and to rebuild the relationship of Indigenous peoples and settler descendants. The blanket exercise isn't meant to point the finger of blame or shame toward settler descendants its a tool to bring us together to work, and towards a better future. It's not about what we can do to fix the past, it's about what we can do to fix the now. 
 
"I've learned that the people who are willing to learn will get the most out of the Blanket Exercise. Even those who don't want to listen or learn, something will stick. Through doing the exercise I've gained a lot of hope for Canada. There is a problem of racism in North America,but teaching and listening to people from all walks of life has given me optimism for our future.
 
"My hope is that everyone who has participated in the exercise has taken something away that will impact them positively. Because I know it has impacted me greatly."
 

 
Tomika, Mercedes, Leeza and Eraine at ECS
 

Tomika with grade ten students at Bert Fox
 
 Debriefing Blanket Exrecise, ECS
 
Mercedes, Victoria, Leeza, Eraine, and Tomika with Kete-ayah Alma Poitras
after presenting the Blanket Exercise at the Estevan Public Library.
 

Eraine, Tomika, and Leeza posing for a picture to send Mr. Koops
as we eat at his favourite restaurant in Regina, after a Blanket Exercise presentation.

 
 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bird's Eye View of Treaty Four Gathering

The many levels of organization are coming together as Treaty peoples work together to prepare for the Treaty Four Gathering, September 12th to 18th in Fort Qu'Appelle.

Monday at noon there will be a feast. All are welcome.

"Empowering Women" is the 30th Treaty Four theme; Monday evening there will be a gathering facilitated by the University of Regina at the Governance Centre, as families of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls share their journeys.

Just to name a few of the student activities, Tuesday to Thursday, there will be traditional foods, traditional medicines, dry meat, hide tanning, treaty teachings, traditional hunting, teepee making, old time tipi, dream catchers, Blanket Exercise, Orange Shirt Day awareness, Veteran's tent, and many other activities with FHQTC, SICC, FNUC, RCMP, Treaty 4 Education, and Sparky the Fire Dog mascot. All day Wednesday there will be an Interactive Career Fair.

David Johnson, the Governor General of Canada and Caroloyn Bennet, the Canadian Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs will spend all day Tuesday in "Crown-Treaty four Relations".

Wednesday evening there's a talent show; Thursday evening a dry dance; Friday evening is Crystal Shawanda in Lebret. Saturday morning is the parade; Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday is the pow wow.

Last year, Andre-Boutin Maloney and his photography students from Bert Fox Community High School photographed these great shots from a bird's eye view on the pow wow grounds, after most students had gone home from the activities of the day.




 

Monday, August 29, 2016

What Was the Most Emotional Moment of the Blanket Exercise? ECS Students Reflect

For Aboriginal Storytelling month last February, four students from Bert Fox Community High School were invited to the Estevan Comprehensive School to present the Blanket Exercise which tells the history of Canada through the voices of indigenous peoples. The blankets represent the land and participants play the role of sovereign indigenous peoples. The facilitators play the role of Europeans who first come to the land as friends, but as the power begins to shift, and Treaties are broken, assimilation and colonization become a reality.  http://kairosblanketexercise.org/about
 
Tim Lee and James Jones, teachers at the Estevan Comp, assigned reflection questions. This is the third of five questions asked.
 
 
 
 
 
 
What was the most emotional moment for you? Why was it emotional? Consider the speaker's values, perspective, biases and tone.
  • The most emotional moment for me would be when they took away Nate's baby. It was emotional because of what it would be like to actually have a child and then it gets ripped away and you never see them.
  • The most emotional moment for me was when the aboriginal kids who were forced to attend residential schools came home to their families, but the kids were shamed and ignored. I got emotional because I don't like being left out. The speaker had a sharp tone when telling the tribes to shame the kids.
  • When they instantly killed people who had the white cards. It was emotional because I had the white card.
  •  The most emotional moment was when the blanket got smaller and smaller, symbolizing their land. Another very emotional part was when people started dying from disease or residential schooling. It was emotional because it felt real and kind of made all of it a reality instead of a story that was "back then".
  • The most emotional was when the readers called out the people with yellow and blue cards. The people with the cards died and did not come back.
  • The most emotional moment for me was when I was given a yellow card and then sent away to residential school. Upon returning to my blanket with the others they were told to turn their backs on me which really stung.
  • The most emotional moment for me was when we were in the talking circles and I saw how little some people cared. They were disrespectful to the speaker. It made me angry how some people have no respect for another's heritage or traditions.
  • The most emotional part, though I am emotionless, would have to be when they pried poor Carlos from Nate. Poor guy was devastated. I mean the way they put it when talking about the Residential Schools makes you kind of realize how bad it really must have felt to have your children yanked from you with no chance of return.
  • The most emotional moment for me was definitely when the young girl in our group from Fort Qu'Appelle explained to us that 2 or 3 generations of women in her family were forced to attend residential school. I found that this was emotional because the facts that we had just learned became more than a statistic, it was this girls' life. I also found that it was interesting when the girl told us not to blame ourselves for the decisions of our ancestors. Her tone was very forgiving, even as she spoke about the damage it caused her family.
  • The most emotional part for me wasn't actually part of the Blanket Exercise, it was when we were in the groups at the end. The girl that was with us told us her story and it was about apartheid because she was from South Africa and it was very sad and realistic. It could somewhat be compared to the whites and Indians but in her case it was Blacks and Whites. Her tone was sad and we could really understand her perspective and there wasn't much bias towards it.
  • The most emotional part for me was when I heard how many of their people were taken away from their families to go to school. It was emotional for me because I deeply care about my family and can't imagine them being taken from me.
  • The most emotional part was when everyone started to leave. The blankets got smaller. People started dying because of disease. It was emotional because that's what they went through.
  • The part I found most emotional was when people were getting killed. I was one of the people who got killed right away, so it showed how fast things happened.
  • The most emotional part for me was when they were talking about how they just took the kids away from their parents. It was emotional because the kids and their parents don't deserve to be separated. Kids need their parents in their lives to be role models, but they couldn't because they were taken away from them and treated terribly.
  • Having people on my blanket turn their back on me when I came back from Residential School was the most emotional moment for me. It was emotional because I have a general idea of what it feels like to be isolated due to my religion. however, it made me feel isolated and a much higher level because there was not much they could do about it.
  • I felt a respect for them (indigenous peoples) when it was all done.
  • The most emotional part of the presentation was when the girl in our group was talking about how suicide has really affected her life. When she started talking about it everyone grew really quiet and we were all listening to her. She said she had many suicide attempts. The way the crowd hushed showed that we had respect for her. She spoke in a quieter tone which showed that she was touchy on the subject and it was hard for her to tell her story.
  • The most emotional part was the Residential Schools. It was hard hearing how the children were taken away and have no idea what's happening to them or where they are. I couldn't imagine the pain the parents of children would feel.
  • The part that struck me the most was when they told the people with yellow cards to stand on a separate blanket, representing the ones who were forced to go to Residential Schools. Then they told us to walk back to our blanket and as we did, everyone turned their backs. It was heart breaking to see that no one cared. The speakers tone at the time was very demanding and fearful. Everyone listened, setting the mood that this was not a happy time.
  • The most emotional part was when the girls took away the babies. It was the reality that so many babies/children died while they were getting taken away.
  • The most emotional moment for me was when the older woman there walked around and yelled at the people on the blankets. The reason this upset me was because you could sense the amount of disrespect the First Nations got treated with. The way she yelled and talked made it seem real.
 
 
Note. Excerpts from the ECS reflections on the Blanket Exercise can be found on Treaty Walks question by question on the following dates:
 
1. What was your general impression or thoughts about the Blanket Exercise? Did you enjoy participating? August 14th, 2016
 
2. What did you learn from Friday's presentation? August 23rd, 2016
 
3. What was the most emotional moment for you? Why was it emotional? Consider the speaker's values, perspective, biases and tone. August 29th, 2016
 
4. The Blanket Exercise is designed to inspire action. How could an event like this inspire people? What could we do? September 2nd, 2016
 
5. Analyze the overall effectiveness of the presentation. September 9th, 2016
 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Becoming Worthy of Reconciliation: Truth and Education



A deeply disturbing event has happened in Saskatchewan. On the same day as my baby's fourteenth birthday, another woman lost her twenty-two year old son.

A deeply disturbing event has happened in Canada. While my newcomer grandparents, aunties, uncles, and parents were going to school, the ancestors of the woman who lost her son were being picked up by the RCMP, the church, the government and sent to Residential Schools.

What is missing from Canada's Truth and Reconciliation process is the confessions of the colonizers. How can we, as a society, expect to act toward reconciliation when we have not, as a society -- in very systemic ways -- acknowledged our racist past, acknowledged our racist present, the legacy of 100 years of our profit at the expense of "100 years of loss" in Indigenous communities.

We are in need of a great season of humility. We are in need of a great season of education.

I have listened to survivor after survivor model deep humility, telling stories from Residential School, often embarrassing and humiliating stories. I listened in Fort Qu'Appelle. I listened in Saskatoon. I've listened on Youtube. I've listened in the coffee shop. I've listened over the phone. Many First Nations people have spoken their truth.

Have survivors had the opportunity to hear settler-descendants, over and over, with deep humility, confess that our people's economic profit (through the clearing of the land for agriculture and other acts of colonization) has been at our Treaty partner's loss? Have survivors heard us speak out over-and-over against racism? Have survivors of colonization heard us own our past from which we have built our present? Have survivors heard us speak with deep humility, as we share embarrassing and humiliating stories of oppression? Have we spoken our systemic truth?

If we are to be worthy of reconciliation, which is being generously offered to us by First Nations peoples, we will need to offer deep humility as the beginning of our truth as we educate each other and ourselves about our shared history.

"Will truth bring reconciliation?" asks Rosanna Deerchild on CBC's unreserved. "Not without education," says the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Justice Murray Sinclair.


http://www.cbc.ca/radio/unreserved/taking-the-first-steps-on-the-road-to-reconciliation-1.3347611/will-truth-bring-reconciliation-justice-murray-sinclair-says-not-without-education-1.3348070

http://www.trc.ca/websites/trcinstitution/File/2015/Findings/Calls_to_Action_English2.pdf

http://100yearsofloss.ca/en

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Snowball Fights, Collage and Recipes: Strategic Planning for Outreach is Fun

We open our first Fort Qu'Appelle Community Outreach Strategic Planning meeting with a snowball fight. Don't ask. You had to be there. But by the end, we've learned that Valerie has a motorcycle license, the Outreach is Ellen's joy, Shiela is taking her kids on an epic holiday, Keitha has been involved with Outreach for 12 years, and Sheena's imaginary childhood name was Susan. Like I said, don't ask.
 
Strategic planning begins with environmental assessment and background information
so we pull out the markers, scissors and magazines and have some fun. "What is Outreach?" we ask ourselves.
 
While I am still gluing my collage, we listen to each other share what has brought us to this Outreach table. Valerie, her students and staff at the Elementary School were so happy to partner with Outreach in a food sharing initiative last year that she wants to get even more involved. Keitha speaks of the importance of Outreach to the community that she has been a part of since she was a girl. Ellen shares how she was immediately accepted into the conversation the first day she walked into Outreach and remembers how everyone was hugging Keitha as they left and calling her Auntie. Shiela tells us of making Fort Qu'Appelle her community, moving to and from for many years, and how she now wants to give back, especially for the children. I tell my friends how I had promised to never take Outreach for granted again, after it closed it's doors a few years back, but then re-opened. I have met Keitha, Ellen, and Shiela because of Outreach, three of my four friends at the table.
 
We tell each other the story of our collages. Each collection of images and words are inspiring. Next, we comb through old files of newspaper clippings, grant applications, fundraising, and miscilaneous reminders of who we are. Of course, many of my files include lists, donations, receipts, volunteers, and maps of our annual Christmas Dinner. We answer the question,"What is Outreach?" in three words.
 
Outreach
Love  Hope  Kindness
Safety     Friendship       Love
Advocacy   Reconciliation     Relationship
Community Acceptance Sharing
Friendship Family Food
Reach-out
 
 
To help us summarize our thoughts, we each write a recipe for Outreach. At the end of the evening we pose for a selfie; well, I pose for a selfie with four powerful women at my back and a whole wall of dreams ready to scooped, stirred, measured, marinated, blended, baked, spooned up, and served. Can't wait to dig in.
 
 
Valerie, Ellen, Shiela, Keitha and me
holding our recipe cards.

Strategic Planning board
 

Valerie

Keitha

Ellen


Shiela

Sheena
 
Keitha

Shiela

Ellen

Valerie