Sunday, September 16, 2012

Gotta kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight...

     Last fall when I was student-teaching my good friend told me about her co-operating teacher. Sheena (the woman) had decided to walk to school every day and think about treaties (agreements between aboriginal people and non-aboriginal people made in the 1800s where we live) and blog about them. (here) I started reading her blog and found it pretty inspiring. My own blog has never had strict focus and has always been more a scrapbook of different parts of my life - my teaching, my travels, music, fashion, photography, my art and writing and I enjoyed her different style of blogging.
     At the end of the summer Sheena let my friend and I know that she would be leading a workshop about Treaty No. 4 (the treaty that was signed between the first people and the settlers in the area of Canada we live in) in September, and my friend and I decided to go.
     So on Friday after school I drove to a town about 45 minutes from home and ate supper with 9 other women (including my friend, Sheena, and the other workshop leader, Keitha.) That night we listened to an elder tell us teachings from his life, and visited and got to know one another.
     Yesterday we went to the Parade and the Pow Wow after doing a great role-playing activity to show the development of the relationship between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada throughout history.
     Last night we sang songs and visited around a campfire, and cooked bannock and s'mores.
     This morning some of us hiked up a hill to watch the sun rise and enjoy the view of the lakes.
     We learned how to bead and talked about our own journeys in life, our own "treaty walks."
     It was an amazing weekend and I learned so much from the leaders, the other women in the group, my friend, and the elders. I had a great time reflecting and learning and I don't think I can say too much yet because I am still trying to get my head around all that happened.
     On Wednesday I am accompanying my students on a field trip to the Treaty 4 grounds to learn about treaties.
     Treaty 4 is supposed to stand as long as the sun shines, rivers flow, and grass grows. It is a contract that all of us live by. There is a saying here: "We are all treaty people." In school we learn about treaties because our curriculum mandates "aboriginal education" but I think sometimes when other cultures are taught on a superficial level or there is a lack of understanding it can lead to more racism and can perpetuate negative beliefs. It is so important for us to learn and understand our own history, to pass it on to future generations, and to finally attempt some healing and reconciliation.
     My friend mentioned how the treaty started out as a good relationship and then turned into an abusive one. It's time for us to heal. 
     While we were at the retreat this weekend, a group of Japanese tourists were staying in the same place as us and joined us for some of our activities. It was so interesting to have them there because we all relied on our translator to understand each other and we kept having to pause while he translated. It made us think of when the treaties were important language is in a contract and how it can be interpreted different ways.
Two of the monuments I saw on the weekend illustrate that pretty well.

This plaque was on a monument erected by the settlers:
"The Indian Chiefs ceded all their rights, titles, and priveleges to all lands ...forever."
This plaque was on a statue sculpted and erected by aboriginal people:

"They agreed to share this land"
It's amazing how the same words can be interpreted so differently by different groups of people.
      I feel that there is an ongoing battle for equality and reconciliation, like so many other things: gender equality, sexual orientation equality, race equality....we must first acknowledge and apologize for the wrongs that have been done and then start to rebuild.
     On the drive home this afternoon the song "Lovers in a Dangerous Time" (the Barenaked Ladies version) came on my iPod and I thought this line could apply to all the people 'fighting the good fight' or walking the treaty walk.
" When you're lovers in a dangerous time 
sometimes you're made to feel as if your love's a crime.
Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fine. 
Gotta kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight."

We've got a long way to go but I hope we can all walk together and build a better country, a better community.


1 comment:

  1. Woooo Hooo Dani! You've made my day, and made me think, especially about the two monuments. Sue has pointed this out to me before, but to see the words one above the other is really driving it home for me. Also, I appreciate what you say about translation. Keep writing, sister!