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."




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