I never thought of myself as a treaty person. But now I am realizing that I am, just by living on Treaty 4 territory. After thinking about my role as a Treaty person, I came to the realization that I also am responsible to uphold my part in the treaty. I cannot just make the treaty be between the Indigenous peoples and the Canadian government. It is about everyone who has agreed to abide by it by living on the land. This means that I need to actually understand my history, as well as, to understand where the Indigenous peoples are coming from. This way, I can help where I can to figure out an understanding as a province, as an individual and as a future teacher.
After reading some of the suggested readings, I realize that Saskatchewan is way worse off than I could have imagined and yet in some ways, it is better off than I hoped in the way of racism. I do not typically pay attention to the news, although nowadays I am becoming more and more interested. So, while I knew that Saskatchewan and Regina is not a perfect little hamlet of equality, I never realized we were at Heil Hitler, Nazi flag, setting firecrackers off at peaceful protestor levels of hate crime. I never realized how angry people were and how much of it was being taken out on First Nations peoples. They have been fighting an uphill battle for centuries. Now they get to watch as their tragic history gets twisted and Disneyfied, to the point where the real history no longer is being acknowledged, no matter how gruesome or relevant it is. They watch while real problems are being swept under the rug to pacify people who were not originally from the land. The treaties that they signed to “help out” European settlers get disrespected and desecrated every day. As a treaty person, it is my responsibility not to just stand by and let those people who are protesting be the only voice talking about how the treaties are not being upheld.
The timeline article made me aware of how little of our history I know. Canada’s Indigenous peoples have been living on the continent we now know as North America for “more than 10,000 years” (Treaty Timeline) but we only know history from the point of where the European settlers set foot on The People’s Island. I also never knew the extent of John A. Macdonald’s mistreatment toward Canada’s indigenous peoples. As a treaty person and a teacher, it is my duty to educate myself on these matters the best that I can in order to accurately tell the story of our country to the next generation. That means that I have to challenge my thoughts and assumptions and go to the source of the stories, being willing to hear many different worldviews, and thus relate the many different ways that our history can be seen.
I have become aware that we European Canadians have cultivated a culture of taking advantage of but not giving advantages to others, a phenomenon that is shown in the BriarPatcharticle on Treaty Rights. The article reminds us that our ancestors made a bargain with the Indigenous peoples of the land, a request that the Indigenous peoples easily could have denied and would have been in the right to do so, and yet in the spirit of brotherhood, they allowed the settlers to farm the land “to the depth of the plough” (McCreary). Yet the settlers dug much deeper than the treaty allowed, as well as ignored the Indigenous peoples when they asked for the same rights in return. This is still happening and the First Nations Justice Warriors, who try to point it out, are villainized because they are made out to be too demanding when all that they are demanding is that the treaty is respected. This is shown when events like the Justice for Our Stolen Children happened. When a bylaw is chosen over the rights of the treaty. As a treaty person, I must learn how to give back to the people who lent us our land because we took so much more than they gave.
However, our country is not without hope. Movements such as the one to remove John A. Macdonald’s statue in Victoria or the movement to have new citizens swear to abide by the treaty and to learn the history of all of Canada’s people, not just the European-Canadians, give hope. I feel that as a treaty person, I am called to align myself with causes that uphold the promises we have made. To allow the First Nations peoples to live their own lives on the land as was agreed and to fight for their rights, to show them they’re not alone and to have the strength and decency to speak up when people say otherwise. To question the source of my thoughts and prejudices towards the subject of racism and what I know about Indigenous peoples. I have the privilege to have people listen to me as a white woman. It is my duty, as a treaty person, to say something worth hearing. As I have been educated, now I also must go on to educate others. This is my commitment as a treaty person, and if you live on the land, it is also yours as well.
Day, Nick. “A Treaty Is More Important than a Bylaw.” Regina Leader-Post, Regina Leader-Post, 4 Sept. 2018, leaderpost.com/opinion/columnists/a-treaty-is-more-important-than-a-bylaw. Accessed 22 May 2019.
Harris, Kathleen. “New Canadians to Pledge Honour for Indigenous Treaties in Revised Citizenship Oath.” CBC, 2 Feb. 2017, http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/citizenship-oath-indigenous-treaties-1.3963508. Accessed 22 May 2019.
Hopper, Tristin. “Here Is What Sir John A. Macdonald Did to Indigenous People.” Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Journal, 28 Aug. 2018, edmontonjournal.com/news/canada/here-is-what-sir-john-a-macdonald-did-to-indigenous-people/wcm/74a1f091-a877-4726-951a-bc9970168f6b. Accessed 22 May 2019.
“John A. Macdonald Statue Removed from Victoria City Hall.” CBC, 12 Aug. 2018, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/john-a-macdonald-statue-victoria-city-hall-lisa-helps-1.4782065. Accessed 22 May 2019.
“Mayor of Kelliher, Sask., Says Nazi Flag on House Coming Down.” CBC, 11 May 2019, http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatchewan/rcmp-says-local-detachment-has-received-complaints-about-flag-1.5132354. Accessed 22 May 2019.
McCreary, Tyler. “Settler Treaty Rights.” Briarpatchmagazine.Com, 2014, briarpatchmagazine.com/articles/view/settler-treaty-rights/. Accessed 22 May 2019.
“Treaty Timeline.” Www.Otc.Ca, 2019, http://www.otc.ca/pages/treaty_timeline.html. Accessed 22 May 2019.