Our Home and “Native Land” Map!

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Native Land

A Facebook friend just shared this wonderful interactive map that gives a clear picture of each treaty, language, and background (Cree, Lakota etc.) of every inch of native land.

The colour overlay of millions of different hues gives visual learners a simple but very effective prompt for reflection of just how diverse, and how present, Indigenous groups are on the continent.

You can select Indigenous and non-Indigenous naming .This could be combined with Google Earth to have some pretty impactful Indigenized geography/social studies lessons for any grade! Wow!

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4 The Good: Indigenization at U of R

Click here to listen to my rushed “reporting” of the TEDx Talk before all of the good thoughts slipped my brain!

I wasn’t quite done and finish my reflections here.

Today I want to share three things that have been bouncing around in my mind. First, I went to two public speaking events

  • URSU’s “Let Your Inner Out” with Margaret Trudeau as keynote speaker (Feb 9)
  • TEDx Talks with Pastor Dr. Meehan (Feb. 11)

Both were not advertised to be about Indigenous issues, but still included Indigenous discussions and/or perspectives, and so I give both of those two events two big thumbs up for pushing the U of R towards indigenization and reconciliation.

The first night was an incredible speech from Margaret Trudeau on mental health. However, before she spoke, it was acknowledged that we are on Treaty 4 and 6 land, and a Chief introduced Indigenous dancers. He said:

“To dance is to pray, and to pray is to heal.”

An Indigenous perspective on mental health was offered, and was simple but clear and beautiful in its message.

A predicament here was that I have photos of the Indigenous dancers who performed, but the chief who introduced them – I did not know his name! He was announced but I could not remember his name or the Nation he is from (although I remember him saying he is a new chief – 18 months in – of the largest reservation on Treaty 4 land with about 4000 people). He was funny but I could also tell he is very wise and compassionate.

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Thankfully I checked my chicken scratch notes I had written down and I saw “Kadniss” (this is showing I am learning to be more conscious, mindful, and paying attention to detail when I am listening to Indigenous issues) and Googled it and I found his name. He is Chief Cadmus Delorme of Cowesses First Nation.

Unfortunately I did not get the names of all of the dancers, and am disappointed there is not a news article discussing this incredible night that was had! What I did gather is that one of the dancers is a business student, born in Onion Lake, and there were two dancers from what I believe is Peepeekisis First Nation.

I think a very important reflection I have had over the last couple of days, on my treaty walk, is that it isn’t enough to know the concepts – to just know worldviews, to know current issues, to know about colonization. We need to learn the names of the people who are making a difference in Indigenous peoples’ lives (leaders, healers, teachers) and are part of the reconciliation process, right now. Also – as Dr. John Meehan (a Catholic Priest out of Campion College here on campus) says – we need to truly LISTEN to “the other”. Whether that means that as white people we need to listen to Indigenous peoples, or straight people need to listen to LGBTQ+ individuals, or men need to listen to women…

Ears need to be opened and mouths need to be closed.

It isn’t good to decide you hate someone (or even that you like them) or what they stand for, before you have sat down with them and gotten to hear their side(s) of the story.

Example A, that I gave to a friend as we were walking out of the TEDx talk tonight: I hear so many white people saying “all those Natives ever do is complain”. Okay, racism of that kind of statement aside… You cannot express your resentment towards whoever happens to be complaining, and earn any respect from me, until you have been invited into an Indigenous person’s house, sat down with them, asked them why they are complaining, and listened with an open mind. It should be further said that one can’t make a truly informed decision based on one story alone. Educate yourself, meet different Indigenous peoples – see the other side, before sharing your (likely prejudiced and ill-informed) side to them and others. It is hard to be vulnerable, I get that. But I also know how hard it is to make truly meaningful relationships when you live in ignorance.

I have shared my thoughts on the TEDx talk in some voice clips that you can access at the top of this page. To clarify more on one point – I do not like that the TEDx introductions:

A) did not include a land acknowledgement (the speaker had obvious references to Indigenous peoples planned in his speech – so why was a land acknowledgement not prepared?) and

B) did not refer to Indigenous peoples when all of the nations that are “under this roof” were listed. Perhaps there were no Indigenous peoples but I find that hard to believe – I believe they were lumped in as Canadians when, as Chelsea Vowel reminds us, not all Indigenous people want to be referred to as such. For my thoughts, now, on the devastating outcome of the Colten Boushie trial… click here.

 

4.5 The Bad and the Ugly: The Devastating Verdict of the Boushie Trial

 

Parker’s Facebook Post – a Quick Glimpse Into Differing Opinions on Boushie’s Trial

CBC full story, connected to my screenshot above. If you do one thing tonight after looking at this blog – watch CBC’s live-streamed video of reactions to the verdict. Sentiments of anger and of thanks to those who supported the family are both shared, and both incredibly emotional to watch.

Especially important is Boushie’s father’s word he shares (I won’t attempt to spell it), with media at around 6:40 in, which in English means “karma”. Powerful.

I also shared a comment – a public apology – which, to my pleasant surprise, still has no negative comments or reactions to it.


My Thoughts?

So… the jury made a verdict. They decided to let a killer go free. Race issues aside (which there are race issues) this verdict is a tragedy. A boy died, a man killed him, and the killer gets no punishment. What kind of pathetic justice system is that – white-biased or not?

More victims (the Boushie family and those in the car on that dark day) were victimized by the RCMP throughout the trial, have been further re-revictimized by this verdict, and will continue to be revictimized by the white privilege that is haunting Saskatchewan right now.

Back to my stance that there are indeed race issues here. I have heard from a lot of friends and “concerned local citizens” that “the race card is at play here” and that it has nothing to do with the fact that Stanley is white and Boushie is Indigenous. I have heard this sentiment from both white and Métis peoples and – while I feel that I cannot speak as strongly towards Métis perspectives as they have had their own unique experiences to deal through – I feel that this entire sentiment grows out of white privilege. They have the opportunity to say “you are pulling the race card” and get away with it, even though it is hurtful.

It does remain an unknown fact, that nobody can dispute and have a leg to stand on, that we do not know if Stanley shot Boushie (or on a spectrum, had any more or less inclination to shoot the boy) because he is Indigenous. I personally believe there is good reason to assume that the boy’s Indigeneity did affect Stanley’s judgement, but it would be an assumption made. I also do not care enough about Stanley as a person to determine whether or not he is a racist. I do not have that kind of time.

However.

It cannot be denied that, if we look at the history of crimes against Indigenous peoples and white people, there is a serious skew here. White people are, in general, more likely to commit violence against “others”. We see it in the amount of recorded crimes, AND the amount of unrecorded crimes, like the filthy racist vile coming off of peoples’ fingers on keyboards as they write their Facebook comments against “Natives”.

One cannot argue that, if you are white and you are messing around on back country roads, you are more likely to stay alive than if you are non-white while doing the exact same stupid things that white kids do. If you try to argue anything else, you also do not have a leg to stand on.

It really does not matter what Stanley’s thoughts are. This trial became a symbol for white and Indigenous relations. So many Indigenous peoples and allies like myself were counting on this verdict to be made “right”, and to show that there is hope in reconciliation – that the justice system, too, is being Indigenized. I think that – moreso than the local farmer who made an arrogant and completely inappropriate decision – it is the justice system and the culture of Saskatchewan that is the “race issue”.

So yes, this trial has everything to do with race. And the verdict showed the whole world how flawed our system really is.

This is exactly why I am not the first one to say “He shot him because he was Indigenous!” BUT I am the first one to state my disagreement or shake my head in shame when someone says “But this isn’t about race!”

Both white people and Indigenous people in Saskatchewan have made it about race. This is akin to people in a room starting to throw food at one another while other people sit and go “this wasn’t supposed to be a food fight” and walk out instead of trying to figure out how to solve the problem. This would be fine – to just remove oneself from the situation – except that the proverbial “food” in question is literally marginalizing one side of the battle, even today. If you aren’t helping, you are hurting.

And, regardless of Stanley’s personal feelings that day…

My friend puts it best in his comment you can read above when he says “That he [Stanley] isn’t in jail for it [the murder of Boushie] is a testament to a system that makes exceptions to law for white people, and treats indigenous people as worth less than a quad” (Parker Houghtaling). That, again, cannot be denied, and makes my heart break.


BTW, my references to old westerns in my title (The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly) are intentional. I reflected in passing in my ELIB class with Barbara McNeill that the entire genre of Westerns essentially perpetuate colonial mindsets. She didn’t disagree. Furthermore this Western saying has even more of a biting accuracy when we discuss this “showdown” that happened between Gerald Stanley and Indigenous kids.


Now, for some direction towards a country/western singer who focuses on important things – like social justice – and not on beer, trucks, and oggling ladies…

Check this guy out. I know I should have Indigenous-made material as well, but – as I am a white woman from a Western background – I feel like it makes sense to try to relate to treaty and reconciliation issues while bringing in some of my own culture as well, to the extent that it will educate and help.

Also worth sharing… (shared also by Parker Houghtaling):

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3 (and a half): Kaswentha

I am well aware of the fact that treaties were developed in an incredibly sly and tricky way on the part of the Crown in the later settlement years, and that land claims are still being dealt with today in a very unfair way, and Chapter 27 and 28 of Vowel’s Indigenous Writes talked all about that. I am sure it is very eye-opening for those of us (Indigenous, Canadian, and both) who did not take this learning in their education, but for those of us in later years who know… It is just frustrating and sickening to revisit this mess.

I was also aware that, before Europeans entered the picture, First Nations had their own treaties between nations with a variety of agreements being determined and that this worked as a great approach to political relations. I was also vaguely aware of the Two-Row Wampum belt, but am glad my memory was refreshed.

I like that the Wampum Belt is revered as a foundational treaty with which all other Indigenous-European treaties branched off from. The symbolism of two parallel lines that never cross is so strong – an image demanding respect for one another’s political powers, while walking (or rather canoeing) side by side in harmony.

Here is a video of the belt and more information on it. (Also important to note, the name of the original peoples who took part in this are the Haudenosaunee – NOT the Iroquois).

I think I know about the Wampum because it has been circulated in Canadian and American education, but with that romanticized notion of “this is how it was – and then it all went wrong – too bad” instead of “we need to work to make sure this spirit is resurrected and nurtured”.

I also learned the term for this idea of separate-but-equal governance: kaswentha, pronounced guswenta).

One other big idea from Vowel’s chapters would have to be the idea of Aboriginal law, and how… Not surprisingly… Nothing is neutral. You can’t fully understand Aboriginal law from reading texts because “the courts favour Canada’s view of the treaties over Indigenous peoples’ understandings” (Vowel). Furthermore, the whole idea of nations being forced to go through the process of a system THAT WAS NOT CREATED BY THEM to fight to get their land back is boggling and unbelievable. They were thrown obstacles at every turn, like for example the pass system and the outlawing of raising money to buy a lawyer to actually figure out how to navigate the system (that they arguably should not have to navigate in the first place).

3: Exploring my Personal Connections to Indigenous cultures

    

Take a look above. In the top collage, I found 14 posters of Indigenous-related material around half of the campus (possibly less, closer to 11 or 12 – I believe I also included other posters that were not Indigenous-based but just inclusion-based). In the bottom collage, I found 11 in the Education building alone (actually 12 – there was an introduction to Indigenous drumming class advertised in the TPC as well that I did not get a photo of!) It is clear where Indigenizing is valued and where it is not. Read more below.

Building Connections and Learning Firsthand

I have recently become friends with a Métis man since returning to Regina. I discussed the smudging we experienced in ECCU with him, to which he replied, without hesitation, that he could arrange to have me join a smudging any time. The overwhelming sense of pride and welcomeness I feel when I discuss anything Indigenous with him I am so humbled by. He also explained to me that in the South he hears older Indigenous individuals with cultural wisdom referred to more as “the old ones” by Métis people around him, whereas the further North you go, the more they tend to adopt First Nations vocabulary (like “Elder”). I think the best way to learn about Indigenous issues, culture and ways of knowing are to go straight to the source. Listening to people like Chelsea Vowel, and my friend who is Métis, are firsthand sources and it isn’t like playing “telephone” listening to a non-Indigenous person’s interpretation of something as it is passed down the line. I am an outgoing person who is curious, loves to ask questions, and generally gets along with people – so I have lots of faith that I will continue to broaden and deepen my treaty understandings and Indigenous ways of knowings my continuing on this path of talking to people firsthand.

I also can not help but reflect on how ignorant I feel, that I had no idea where SUNTEP was on campus, and even what it is all about. It is a teacher education program for Métis and First Nations teachers, from the Gabriel Dumont Institute. I am happy that I am learning this now – better late than never.

Exploring Campus

After our professor Vivian prompted us to look for in-person events around the University or city of Regina (in place of missing the pipe ceremony last week) I decided to make a little project out of looking at posters. I was also reflecting on how this could possibly tie in to the lesson I will have to teach the class on Indigenization in education.

I decided to look all around the campus, but in one night was only able to cover the KIN building, ED building (3 levels), Riddell, all the way up to the classroom building. I would say I covered about half of the main floor of the campus.

I took photos of every poster I could find that explicitly (or through symbolism) mentioned something local and Indigenous-related. Initially this was to keep track of events I could go to, but soon I found myself wondering – how visible are Indigenous issues in our University? And I took photos of activities that did not suit me to attend, as well. My plan is to have a collage of all of the photos I took in and out of the Ed building, shortly.

My main findings were that Indigenous-related posters and symbolism were incredibly prevalent in the Education building. There was usually more than one Indigenous-related poster on each bulletin board, there were (what I assume to be) Cree words on plaques on the walls, and all four corners of the building had clear representation. I would feel safe in claiming the Education building to be “Indigenized” because, not only are there posters up, there are actual Indigenous events held between the walls of the building. For example there is a meeting later in February where people can learn how to drum! There are smudgings and pipe ceremonies held on campus.

Sadly, I became aware that this Indigenization dropped considerably when I left the Ed building. Outside of the Ed building, elsewhere on campus, there was probably one poster per every 2 or three bulletin boards. It lost the authenticity of feeling like a space where Indigenous contemporary culture and issues were valued. I never consciously realized this before (because as a person with white privilege I could see my cultures reflected and often did not have to go so far as thinking about “other” cultures) but I managed to make the implicit, or the hidden curricula, more explicit and eye-opening. And now I can better understand why some Indigenous people may not feel welcomed in the University overall (let alone the city itself).

 

2: “I Have Some Bad News, and Some Good News”

Last class in ECCU 400 I had two profoundly different experiences. A “bad” one (which was still educational) and a “good” or positive experience.

It reminded me of a time I did something reckless (completely out of character, fueled by adrenaline and a lack of experience), and had two people come up to me with completely different perspectives, both of which I needed. The first person lectured me and had me in tears, explaining how I had been reckless and careless to myself and others. Swearing was involved. That person left me crying and alone to reflect soberly on what I had done. Soon after another person found me and invited me into her home to look after me and help me come down and heal from the entire event. A reality check, and compassion and hopefulness – two very important things we need whenever trauma or tragedy has occurred in our lives. We cannot do one without the other, and so often I hear “Why don’t we all MOVE ON from residential schools already?” We can’t until we accept and teach that reality check, too.

My first experience in class was the Blanket exercise. Thanks to everyone who helped facilitate the effective, haunting experience. As I had said when we shared in the talking circle, the facts were not new to me. None of them we knew – I recalled each one, and was often nodding through the experience. However, the new learning that took place was not facts, but emotional connections. The experience (which involved standing on blankets and then being ordered around on what to do) had me fitting into emotional roles of all types of abuse that went on with Indigenous peoples:

  • seeing a baby being ripped from someone’s hands and tossed aside
  • feeling of cold indifference of colonization as someone stares you down and tells you what to do
  • feeling of being displaced, left alone, and turning your back on family and friends

For example at first I felt awkward because I knew it was “just a role play” and yet we were all so serious, but soon I was absorbed into the role. I felt lonely standing up there as all classmates sat down one by one, I felt confused at the rules of being on the blanket and off and on, and I felt considerably annoyed at the people who kept coming to shake my life up and make me lonelier. I was able to experience and simulate (on a much smaller scale – I want to be understood clearly that I don’t think under any circumstances I could experience the same grief Indigenous peoples have went through) the feelings that went on for millions of people for hundreds of years.

I often feel that… When I hear a statistic of however million sick or dying, it is “just a number”. Too haunting to be fathomed. But when you are invited into a story about one person it becomes real and real learning can take place and the blanket exercise did this for me

I strongly believe that smudging is something every person of every background should experience. I am so thankful that the Elders I have met are open to sharing their culture and traditions, when it was made illegal or treated so poorly for so long. I felt calm, warm, happy and happy – this all despite the fact I was running late for next class. Something in me was saying “This is worth it – my professor will (or should) understand and some things are just more important than hearing the beginning housekeeping of a class. In that moment I felt loved, cared about, comforted and I think that lots of young students who are dealing with their unique difficulties of life would benefit from the wisdom and compassion of an elder like Alma and being smudged. I also liked the community aspect, that I was experiencing this first the first time with many others who were also in the same boat.

As I say – started on a bad note (a reality check that we as teachers need to learn and teach our students) and ended on a good note (being welcomed into a new culture and learning how positive its traditions are for its people – or anyone who is looking for guidance and help).

 

1: miskâsowin & tâpwêwin (origin & truth)

Hello, and thanks for reading my first official blog post for ECCU 400! This first week has to do with origin and truth – where do we come from (not just physically, but in terms of our biases and experiences in the world) and what do we know as of this moment to be true? I will attempt to answer some of these blog prompts to be the best of my knowledge, to give you some insight into who I am as a person and how I fit into the opportunity to learn about treaties and Indigenous ways of knowing.

Where is home for you? Wherever I feel comfortable and happy. Swift Current (particularly at the Lyric Theatre), outside in nature, and most recently in my new apartment in Regina.
What makes it home for you? [boundaries/borders]? I am a person who likes to push boundaries in all respects, so my idea of home is no exception. I have little physical boundaries on where home is. I do have a strong pull to say my “homiest home” is Swift Current in the house I have grown up in for 21+ years, simply because it is the place I know best and have the most happy memories within and around.
Did school feel like home, how so or why not? In elementary school I would not say it felt like home, but I know I appreciated and saw merit in a lot of the routines and structure from a young age and would often take pride in “teaching my mother the rules of the school”. I liked that there were practical reasons behind why we did things a certain way. In some respects, it did not feel like home though because sometimes the structure would rub me the wrong way. My mom often recalls that I loved science, but as soon as you put that label on it and CALLED it science… suddenly it was no longer “going fishing” or “exploring nature” but “documenting and over-analyzing and trying to understand what the teacher wanted me to get and the pressure for marks”, and I decided I hated it. I strive to make school a place that is fun, without stress (just healthy challenges), thereby making it feel more like home for the kids.

University has felt like home simply because I lived in the university in residence. I remember going days without leaving the building and I am quite certain I got cabin fever. Now, I have my own place and I cherish that separation. I am able to have my personal life and my academic life.

But Really… Who Am I And What Do I Know?

I see the world through this lens – I am a white woman who belongs in the LGBTQ+ community. I have Aboriginal peoples as family members and friends but the more I learn about culture, history, and contemporary Aboriginals issues the further I feel from have a “mastery” of it, and I think that is as it should be. People, cultures, cannot be “figured out”, but valuable wisdom about empathy, diversity, humility and compassion can always be gleaned. I love that Swift Current is beginning to evolve and Indigenize, just as Regina has. For example, when I hosted the Christmas Matinee at the Lyric Theatre this year, on my script the very beginning had me sharing that we live on Treaty 4 land and we shall honour those treaties as long as the sun shines, river flows and grass grows.

This is what I believe I know, and want to know, as of the beginning of taking this class:

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This is just the beginning, and I am looking forward to this journey. As our professor Vivian has explained in class, we need to own our humbleness and explain to our kids that we are always in the process of learning more, just as they are.