Weekly Engagement #6

The main course themes of kihci-asotamatowin, tapwewin, miyo-wicehtowin, witaskewin, and miskasowin sum up some of the ideas that I need to engage with to bring myself to understand myself and my relationship with treaties.  Throughout the course, we have dealt with each one on their own and in different forms.  Practicing this thorughout the course is practicing for outside of the class, into our classrooms, and even just into our everyday lives.  For me, this practice has me very conscious about each aspect in my every day life.

Our two field trips were very different and provided us with some essential learnings about our relationships with treaties.  The field trip in Fort Qu’Appelle taught us about how often different stories are told and how that makes it difficult to come to a true “tapwewin” idea.  The treaty walk field trip emphasized how there are many important buildings and ideas in Regina that have impacted Indigenous peoples, either positively or negatively.  It is important that we are aware of these stories so that we can properly come to our own “tapwewin”, or our own truth.  This trip had a focus on why naming is imporant and challenged the idea of changing names with negative meanings and what this might mean to the story being told.  Without these field trips, I do not think that I would have learned these ideas.  Experiencing things like this gives you a different interpretation as you didn’t have to research every single place, but you are now more aware and knowledgable about them.

The Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan textbook is a great resource as it gives insight to many common things.  The Indigenous Writes textbook I found very useful especially at the beginning of the semester because naming myself and Indigenous people has always been something that I am nervous about because I do not want to offend anyone.  But as we learned from Lamarr, we are always going to offend someone with the name that we choose.  A learning that resonated with me from Audrey is that it is okay to be uncomfortable, as long as you are willing to learn and to gain something from your uncomfortable experiences.  This topic of treaties is often something that settlers and other immigrants are uncomfortable with because they don’t want to offend anyone or they don’t feel confident in their own knowledge.

I definitely feel better about my knowledge of treaties and more knowledgable about Indigenous practices, in particular smudging and pipe ceremonies.  Considering I have never done either of these, I really want to be able to practice these ceremonies as a future teacher.

I am confident in saying that I am a settler-Canadian.  I have ancestors from Sweden, Norway, Ireland, and Scotland.  My ancestors signed the treaties with the Indigenous groups.  I benefit from treaties in all aspects of my life.  Without the treaties, my family would not have had access to this land and they would have not been able to start new and prosperous lives here in Canada.

I am a settler-Canadian, and I benefit from treaties.

 

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Weekly Engagement #5

This week, in light of our treaty walk that we attended on June 8, I went on my own treaty walk.  For my treaty walk, I went to the buffalo jump that is near my house.  I went on this journey by myself and without any technology. I wanted to truly embrace this area and start to make sense of my relation to this land and to treaties in general.  I wanted to think about this experience in a more Indigenous and non-colonial way to see how differently  I interpret things.  To be respectful to the land and to practice an Indigenous spiritual practice, I placed tobacco on the ground to create a connection between myself and the land, and to begin to understand my realtionship with Treaty.

While on this journey, I felt very connected to nature.  I was focusing on my surroundings rather than on my cell phone or my laptop.  Being by myself, I was able to do a lot of thinking, interpreting, and I was able to go at my own pace.  I wanted to experience things in a non-colonial way as this is one of the essential parts to reconciliation – to decolonize our encounters and our relationships with Indigenous peoples.  Most of the time, everyone gets caught up in the colonial way of life – consuming, producing, working, commuting, etc.  We rarely take time out of our busy days to reflect or to reconsider what we are doing.  I really engaged with this idea during my time at the buffalo jump.  I thought about how bad things are getting to be in society.  We aren’t focused on the right things to move forward.  We are moving backwards.  I connected this to the buffalo jump because of the way the Indigenous peoples lived before colonization.  They were self-sustaining people who relied strictly on what nature provided them.  Our society relies strictly on producing and consuming artifical and manufactured goods that are harmful to our environment.  The colonial way of life is clearly taking a step backward, but no one seems to realize that the ways of Indigenous tribes before the settlers came was the ideal way of life.  We don’t need anything more than what nature offers.  We don’t need to constantly produce products that often are dangerous to ourselves and especially dangerous to the environment.

This experience has brought a new light to my thoughts about our current society and current relatioship with the planet.  We are stuck in the present day, and we are not looking forward.  The idea of “7 generations” is something that settler society needs to adopt into their own beleifs in order for the planet to actually survive the next 50 years.

Being able to realize this, I feel like I am able to move forward, knowing that I am becoming more connected to treaties and I am beginning to understand that Indigenous ways are actually the ideal ways of living.  The society that my ancestors brought over isn’t the ideal society.  I do not feel like this is all my fault, but I feel like realizing this is a step forward in the right direction.  I need to advocate for the future of this planet, and support the ways of the Indigenous peoples as they do practice ideal ways of living.

Weekly Engagement #4

During our field trip to Fort Qu’Appelle, we participated in a smudging ceremony.  This smudge, for me, was very informative.  One part that really stuck with me was when Wendell was talking about hair.  In his view, hair is sacred and spiritual.  He explained that hair represents strength and also a sense of identity.  He also shared with us how his people deal with their hair which contrasts what I typically do with my hair.  I decided to listen to Wendell’s ways of dealing with hair this week in order to open up my spirituality and connect more with Indigenous ways of knowing.

Following Wendell’s instructions, I have compiled my hair that I collected on my brush and placed it in a container.  I will continue to collect and compile my hair from my brush and hair that I shed until I have enough to burn.

Along with collecting my hair, I have also focused on taking care of my hair.  Wendell stated that what you do with your hair is a direct representation of how you feel about yourself, and that is why they believe in collecting their hair rather than throwing it in the garbage.  This week, I have made sure that every morning and every night I have brushed it.  I also made sure to wash it regularly.  Although washing my hair has never been an issue for me, brushing it and keeping it looking nice sometimes doesn’t always happen for me.  I never realized how much better I feel when my hair is brushed and smooth compared to when my hair is a complete disaster.  I have always loved having long hair, but that also means that I have to put in more effort to make it look and feel good.

I really quite enjoyed this weeks engagement.  I realized that taking care of a certain part of my body affects my whole body and even my mood.  Taking part in a spiritual practice like this gives me a new perspective to my body and to my health.  Coming from a family with little to no spiritual practices, this one really changed my perspective and I am thankful for that.

Weekly Engagement #3

This week, our class got to engage in a field trip to Fort Qu’Appelle and Lebret.  We took part in a smudging ceremony, a treaty walk, a museum tour, and a walk up the religious path on the hill in Lebret.  This field trip was very eye opening and interesting.  I have been to Fort Qu’Appelle a few times, but never in this sense.  I haven’t ever actually noticed many of the things that we focused on in our tour and treay walk.  There are many different stories that are told, some truths and some alternative stories as well.

 

The biggest thing that resonated with me from this trip was that the two statues in the two parks told completely different stories.  One had a very Eurocentric persepctive, while the other had a very Indigenous persepctive.  The Eurocentric statue or monument told a story that was very settler based.  The names on the statue were written differently so that the Europeans could understand and pronounce them.  They were not written in their Indigenous form.  The monument itself also is very plain, and seems to tell no story in particular because it simply looks like a land marker.  There is no design that indicates its meaning at all, which is pretty disappointing.  In contrast, the Indigenous statue that we visited contained the true story of the Indigenous people with true Indigenous names.  The statue itself tells a story unlike the European monument.  It is way more engaging and interesting to look at than the European monument as well.  Through comparing these two monuments, I have learned that it is very easy to get the wrong idea even though the town itself is where the Treaty 4 document was signed.  There are still mixed messages within the town which make it hard to know the actual truth.

 

One of my biggest learnings happened in the smudge that we had with Alma and Wendell.  Wendell taught us a lot about spirituality and about how to be good people as well.  He told us about how his culture views men and women and I really appreciated this.  I think that if the whole world viewed women in the way that his culture does, I think that the whole world would be a completely different place.  Around the world, there are so many places that view women as inferior and small, but Wendell explained to us that women are the most powerful sex because they have a special connection to the creator each month when they have their moon time.  I really enjoyed his insight to this idea and I really appreciate how important that women are to his culture.  He also talked about how hair is a very spiritual thing to him and his people.  Hair is to be kept well and to be respected.  He explained that throwing out your hair is a direct representation of how you feel about yourself, so if you throw it in the trash, you view yourself as trash.  I never have thought about my body in that sense.  I usually just view everything as something that can be thrown out, but Wendell states that the proper way to handle your hair is to collect it, and when you have the chance, you burn it.  This in turn brings your hairs spirit closer to the creator.

 

This field trip really brought me some new perspectives about Indigenous issues and made me understand spirituality more.  Coming from a background with little-to-no spirituality, it was very interesting for me to hear other peoples persepctives about how things are viewed as spiritual.  I knew that many Indigenous groups believe that everything has a spirit, but I never really thought about things on my body, especially my hair as having a spirit that needs to be respected and cared for properly.  This really gave me a new perspective on myself and made me realize that I need to pay close attention to things that are in my everyday life and perhaps considering them as having a spirit so that I have a different connection with them. I think that this would change my view on a lot of things in my life and really make me reconsier how I treat myself and how I treat other things around me.

Weekly Engagement #2

To myself in 30 or so years,

Currently in Canada, there is a major issue that was caused by many years of pain and suffering of Indigenous peoples who populated this land way before the settlers (my ancestors) arrived. This pain and suffering was the outcome of children being forcibly removed from their homes and taken away to residential schools, stripped of their culture and language, unable to understand the meaning of family, and even many being placed in non-Indigenous houses if the government deemed their home to be unable to provide for them.  The impacts of these horrible actions are still seen decades later.  I can still see them today.

Today, these actions aren’t seen as much, but there are still many problems such as the over-representation of Indigenous youth in the foster care system, the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in correctional centres, the extremely high amounts of missing and murdered Indigenous women and youth, and the over-representation of Indigenous peoples living on the street.  These issues in today’s society are directly related to what has happened in the past.  This intergenerational trauma is ongoing, even several generations later.  This is how awful the events were in the past.  It almost seems as though there is no way to fix it for today’s Indigenous youth as there is so much ongoing trauma.

Reconciliation is a necessity for the stability of our country.  We need to create positive relationships with those who we have harmed through colonialism and rekindle these important relationships.  Our government seems to be making small, positive changes lately, but there needs to be more done.  There needs to be bigger steps taken by the whole nation for reconciliation to be possible.  One of the major things that needs to happen is more education for the public.  This education needs to tell all the citizens of Canada the cold-hearted truth of what colonialism has done to the Indigenous peoples who populated Canada before the settlers arrived.  People need to understand the history of our country in order to move passed it and in order to reconcile for what has been done.  I think that a lot of people don’t understand what these precious people have been through and what the settler nations have done to them.  I also think that people need to be willing to learn about other people’s spirituality and ways of life in order to live in harmony together.  The treaties were made for this reason, to live in harmony with one another.  It was supposed to be a give and take relationship between the settlers and the Indigenous people, but this clearly did not happen.

So my question for you, my future self, is what has been done to remediate this huge and very important issue? Are the Indigenous people still being mistreated in a very large scale? Has the government improved life for the Indigenous people, possibly following the calls to action stated in the TRC? Is there equality for all people in Canada? Is this so called “wonderful country” as wonderful as it can be? Is there still a lot that needs to be done? If so, I would be very disappointed in our society.  I would be very heartbroken and angry if in 30 years, this problem still exists.  I also will be disappointed in myself if I haven’t done all that I can to help this ongoing issue.  For my own conscious and my own spirit, I need to be committed to doing everything I can.

Weekly Engagement #1 -My Treaty Story

Both sides of my family originated from European countries with members immigrating to Canada to start a new life.  The countries my family immigrated from are Ireland, England, Poland, and Sweden.  With this in mind, my family would be placed on the settler side of the treaty making.  My family would be the white people who are wanting to claim land and resources to begin expanding their families on Canadian grounds.  My family would have been the people who wanted to assimilate and essentially “get rid of” the Indigenous peoples who had populated the land before their arrival.  My family would have been those who supported the church’s whom attempted to assimilate the Indigenous people of what is now Canada and they would have been those who intentionally harmed the Indigenous peoples through this assimilation process. My family was a major part of what happened and what continues to happen to the Indigenous peoples of Canada.  The following pictures are parts of my family tree:

Personally, I am one of those who sees what the past has done to several generations of families and how severe some of the outcomes actually are.  I am now responsible for reconciling for my ancestors actions against Indigenous peoples.  I am responsible to help support those who experienced the trauma of my ancestors, something that I wish I was better at.  Not only am I responsible for this, my parents are, my grandparents are, and everyone from my generation is.  The events that happened in the past have now damaged the future generations through intergenerational trauma.  Even though these horrible events took place decades ago, the effects are still present and still as horrible as ever.

Although I wasn’t even alive when the Residential Schools were in tact or when the 60s Scoop happened and lots of racial actions were performed against Indigenous peoples of Canada, I am still apart of what happened through my family and through my responsiblities as a treaty person.  As a treaty person in the present day, one of my main responsibilities is reconciliation and rekindling my relationship with Indigenous peoples.  This is a big responsibilty to take on, but it is something that needs to happen for our nation to stay in tact.  I often find this hard with my parents and my grandparents opinions and views, because their views are much different than mine.  They are very “old fashioned” when it comes to dicussing these topics.  They very much are negative about this topic and I refuse to talk about it with them.  This makes it super hard for my generation to reconcile as other generations are not willing to give up their previous, ignorant opinions.

When doing the blanket exercise for a second time, I experienced something very different.  I exerienced way more emotions than I did the first time.  Having real-life stories to accompany this experience is what changed it for me.  Listening to the stories that Michael had to share and our other guests shared with us really changed the meaning and helped me feel more throughout the exercise.  This exercise makes me want to do better and be better for those who were and still are affected by the traumatic events that took place in the past. This round of the blanket exercise really changed my persepective on the past and current issues that Indigenous people face everyday.

Creative Journal #5

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This week, my creative journal is about a homemade offering or an act of reciprocity with the land as discussed in Kimmerer’s article.  Each summer, my mom plants a garden in my backyard.  She plants vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, onions, peppers, and cucumbers.  As the vegetables begin to be ready for use, we pick them.  We only pick the amount we need though.  This is our homemade “offering”.  We leave the rest of the vegetables in the garden for nature to handle.  This might be letting animals eat them, letting them breakdown in the soil, etc.  My jar for my visual is filled with soil from my garden. On top, I have placed 2 onion bulbs that were left there through the winter and remain there today.  This proves our offering to the land.

If the plants stay in the soil and breakdown on their own, the soil will actually become more fertile with this natural material.  This will help the plants we grow the next year.  This idea of only taking what we need is often a part of tradition First Nations culture as it is an act of respect towards the land.  Although we buy the seeds to plant, we let nature do its thing when it comes to the plants that we don’t end up using.  This has always been something that my family has done, and I think that it is a really good thing for animals such as deer, who often take over our gardens and eat the plants.