Monday, August 8, 2016

Dear Sara, August 8, 2016

August 8th, 2016
Dear Sara,
How can I tell you how energizing and inspiring it was to Treaty Walk Fort Qu'Appelle with you the last time you came home? To listen in on your thinking and feeling was such an honour.
It was so much fun to hear you re-discover that your childhood playground "Cannonball Park" was actually the "Treaty Park". When I told you that Lynn Anderson had told me that the cannon used to be pointed right at the Treaty Cenotaph, but when I had said something like, "that's ironic" he didn't want me to make a big deal of that because he felt it couldn't have been intentional, you got the irony, and I have to tell you, sometimes it's lonely thinking something is ironic all by yourself. It was fun watching you retrace your childhood steps, walking over to the place where you think the cannon used to be and agreeing that you remember it pointed in that direction. I was happy to show you where that cannon is now, in front of the Legion! It was like watching you see an old friend, and then you climbed right up onto the seat, and I could tell you'd done that before.
Thank you for listening to me unpack some of the things I've been thinking about lately, especially trying to understand how I might already be using the methodology of Metissage as I tell my Treaty Walks stories, like when you and I were standing in front of the empty lot, with the big brick chimney, where the old Indian Hospital used to be. I told you the story of Keitha and me driving past and I said that there is so much history there, and then thought to ask Keitha if any of her kids were born there, and she told me that everyone from Lizzy to Robert, that all but two of her kids were born there, and how in that very space two different realities co-exist. My reality is academic and a newcomer's lament for a beautiful building lost, sad that I can't show it to people on Treaty Walks anymore since it was torn down; Keitha's reality is of childbirth, pain, life, and all the other reality of assimilation and colonization that her people have survived.
I enjoyed walking along the nature trail, looking out at the water from the bridge, where I snapped this great shot of you, then circling the museum, trying the door, figuring out when it was open, and then discussing the role of the Hudson Bay Company in colonialism but also Treaty negotiations, and I do promise you, I will be studying more about the HBC. I really know so little.
Pretty soon we were walking toward the Hudson Bay Building where the coffee shop used to be and you sat down for some shade. I took some more pictures and you said, "I feel like I'm famous, or something."
"You are famous. In my books you are famous," I said. You are taking the journey that I wish for all of young people. The way you are exploring your own identity, as a settler descendant Treaty Canadian, has the potential to transform our relationship with the land and our Treaty relationships.
The picture I took of you -- reading the panels on the Man with the Dying Eagle statue -- didn't turn out and then my camera died. I'll send you more pictures of the statue, especially as the seasons change. It is a powerful image for Treaty in our town.
Well, I guess I should sign off now. I'm wishing you all the best as you return to the University of Alberta and continue the writing stage of your thesis. I can't wait to read it. Give my best wishes to your supervisor, Dr. Donald. I am rereading some of his papers to help me consider my responsibility as a settler descendant living and teaching in a fort town.
Fort Qu'Appelle
Treaty Four Territory
Remember how, when we first met up at the Treaty park, we were awed that so many of the trees have been cut down along the edge? I've heard now that it was Dutch Elm Disease. I'm so sad. 

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