Sunday, August 7, 2016

Singing O Canada This Morning

When Sara and I were Treaty Walking in Fort Qu'Appelle last Wednesday morning, we stopped on the red bridge on the nature path. We were talking about the awkwardness of settler descendants, like ourselves, when we acknowledge Treaty territory at public events.

I shared that when I had had the microphone at the Drama Festival last spring, and at the beginning of each session, we were to mention our sponsors and the rules of the festival, and at each opportunity I acknowledged Treaty 4 land. I could tell that I was making people feel uncomfortable, and when many had heard me do this more than once, there was fatigue in the air. There is this certain quiet that people get, like they don't know where to look, or they feel like they're being forced to go-along with a conspiracy, or something.

I told Sara how I had practiced different introductions until I got my announcer voice down, "Welcome to Fort Qu'Appelle in the heart of Treaty Four Territory." When I used that upbeat voice, the audience seemed to warm to the words.

Today, as I write, it's Friday, August 5th. Yesterday I was asked to sing O Canada at a Bike Rally this Sunday morning, August 7th at Fort Qu'Appelle's Rexentre. I have two days left to prepare. I'm going to automatically schedule this post for 9:00 a.m. Sunday, when I should be singing O Canada.

I'm thinking about the significance of singing "O Canada" on Treaty Four land. I remember being at a Reclaiming Youth, Circle of Courage conference down in the Black Hills. A woman from South Africa dedicated twenty minutes of her keynote address entitled "Oh Canada" as in, "Oh my goodness, Canada" as she unpacked residential school and our legacy. There were many Canadians at this conference, even though it was in the United States, and even though I have dedicated time sharing Residential School education with fellow Canadians, it felt very different being "told on" in an American setting. To have someone from South Africa compare the horrors of apartheid with the horrors of Canadian colonialism was humbling.

I've been practicing "O Canada" in the key of A, acappela style. As I sing the words, thinking of "Oh Canada", I am mindful of indigenous people who stand for this anthem, knowing fully the legacy of colonial Canada.

I've never heard someone introduce "O Canada", but I feel that I must take every opportunity to honour the Treaties.

I've written an introduction, and if nobody before me acknowledges Treaty Four territory, this is what I will say, just before I sing.

"I welcome you to our community of Fort Qu'Appelle in the heart of Treaty Four territory, traditional homelands of the Nehiyawak, Nakawē, Nakota, Dakota, Lakota, and Métis nations."

"I join you in honouring the Treaties which cast the vision for our great land and were the building blocks of Canada."

"Please rise and sing with me."

O Canada, our home and native land
True patriot love, in all thy sons command
With glowing hearts, we see thee rise,
The true north strong and free
From far and wide, O Canada
We stand on guard for thee
God keep our land, glorious and free
O Canada we stand on guard for thee
O Canada we stand on guard for thee.

Wait. Just a minute.

Today, as I write, it's Saturday, and I have one day left to prepare for singing "O Canada". I've been practicing my introduction as written above, modifying a few things, and I feel I just can't pull off the second statement, making the connection between traditional territory to honouring Treaty by singing "O Canada". I know the connection is real, and it's time we start making that connection, but I'm worrying that people will be distracted by the mention of Treaty, and this may take away from the power of acknowledging traditional homelands. And another thing, I'm not sure of the correct enunciation of Nehiyawak and Nakawē, so I think I will use the words which the French named these nations, Cree and Saulteaux.

Here I go. Upbeat voice on.

I am happy to share O Canada here
in historic Fort Qu'Appelle
in the heart of Treaty Four
in the traditional territory of the Cree and Saulteaux nations
in the traditional territory of the Nakota, Dakota, and Lakota nations
and in the homelands of the Métis nation.

Please rise and sing with me. O Canada.

Flags flying outside of the All Nations Healing Hospital in Fort Qu'Appelle
Treaty Four, Saskatchewan, British Union Jack, Canada
References for protocol in acknowledging traditional territories: 

"The University of Regina is predominately situated in Treaty 4 Territory with a presence in Treaty 6 Territory. Treaty 4 is the traditional territory of the Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota, Lakota and Dakota peoples, and is the homeland of the Métis people. As educators in these territories, it is our collective priority to ensure all learners gain a deeper understanding of our shared histories and contemporary relationships. Indigenization and reconciliation are our collective responsibilities."
"The goal of this guide is to encourage all academic staff association representatives and members to acknowledge the First Peoples on whose traditional territories we live and work. This acknowledgement appropriately takes place at the commencement of courses, meetings or conferences, and presentations (given either at one’s home institution or elsewhere).

University of Manitoba's "Traditional Territories Acknowledgement"
University of Calgary's "Cultural Protocol Guidelines: Recommended Practices for First Nations, Metis and Innuit Cultural Engagement"
"It is First Nations protocol to acknowledge the traditional territories upon which one visits or seeks relationship with. To acknowledge Indigenous traditional territory is to recognize that ‘Canada’ has a long history dating back before european colonization and refers to the fact that First Nations have lived and occupied these lands since time immemorial. Today the practice of acknowledging Indigenous territories is growing with more non-Native people becoming aware that Indigenous history has been denied long enough."
"When we acknowledge the traditional land that we stand on, we recognize a longer story that informs the present. We recognize that European governments marginalized Aboriginal peoples economically, socially, and politically. We look around the room and see not enough Aboriginal peoples, and we realize that our, my, place in this room is the product as much of systemic inequalities as my own academic achievements. We do not change the context, but we do recognize it. That is powerful."

No comments:

Post a Comment