Treaty People Everywhere!

I spent the last two days participating in a Treaty Education workshop at the University of Regina. The workshop was put on by the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, and was led by some great facilitators and elders from across our province.

I had high expectations going into this workshop that I would leave inspired, excited, and even more passionate about Treaty Education. I have found a great interest in learning more about First Nations culture, treaties, history, and how to teach them since I first came to the University of Regina two years ago. I had a fantastic experience in my Indigenous Studies 100 and ECS 110 classes my first semester, which completely opened my eyes to the hurt that exists around First Nations history. In my elementary and high school education I never learned about First Nations peoples, so was shocked to find out what I didn’t know. Since then I have only wanted to learn more so that I could feel more comfortable with First Nations topics and be able to teach my students to enjoy learning about First Nations too. I looked at this workshop as a two day intensive experience where I could fill my mind with even more new ideas of how to approach Treaty and First Nations Education.

The first day started out with some trivia, which was a lot of fun, but that’s where it stopped. From there, my engagement level only declined throughout the day. While I continued to try and find pieces to spark my interest or make me question, I felt very disengaged, and continually disappointed. I was trying to learn more, but was only met with repetitive information.

The gates are all that is left standing of Lebret Residential School

The gates are all that is left standing of the Residential School at Lebret

I did, however, appreciate the stories that our guest elder shared with us, and found his messages about forgiveness and courage to be quite inspirational. He shared with us some of his experiences about his time spent at the Lebret Residential School, where he experienced abuse, much like is depicted in the movie, “We Were Children.” He also talked about how it has taken over 30 years for him to come to grips with what happened and be able to find the strength to move forward. His experiences at Residential School affected his entire life, and the lives of his children, but he told us about the courage he has found to move on from those experiences, to ask for forgiveness from his children, and to even take educators who are dedicated to teaching about residential schools back to the very site of his dark experiences.  The courage that he demonstrated to us gave me more strength to know that if he could work through his struggles, so could I, as they are much more trivial.

While I left feeling a little let down after the first day, I returned for the second with a positive attitude, hoping we would learn about how to integrate Treaty Education into the classroom, and also to learn about the components ofTreaty Education. I found the second day far more engaging, as we had many opportunities to express ideas with classmates, work through creating an integrated lesson plan, and look at some great resources. This was definitely more along the lines of what I was anticipating from this workshop.

View of Mission Lake and the Qu'Appelle Valley from the site of the Residential School at Lebret.

View of Mission Lake and the Qu’Appelle Valley from the site of the Residential School at Lebret.

On the second day, in addition to enjoying the collaborative atmosphere I really enjoyed hearing from our guest knowledge keeper/old person. She too attended the Lebret Residential School, out of punishment for misbehaviour on her reserve, but had a very different experience than the horrific stories that are often told. She shared with us that she did not experience any abuse, nor did she witness or hear of anything like is often told. It was uplifting to hear that not all residential school experiences were bad, and that people like her have gone on to great things. I was inspired by her message about looking at the world as a greater circle, where you always need to come back home to be able to see where your true path lies. I feel that as a future educator, this is very important, as we have to look at the big picture, yet still be able to find a path from our own heart to teach; especially to teach more sensitive subjects like Residential Schools and Treaties.

Photo Credit: mattcatpurple via Compfight cc

Though my experience at this workshop was not what I expected, I have come away still feeling excited about incorporating Treaty Education into my future classroom. There are so many resources out there (here’s one I found from the Treaty 4 Education Alliance) and people to connect with that the sky is the limit in what you can do with Treaty Education. I do not feel intimidated by the information, and hope that over my next two years in the Faculty of Education I will continue to build upon and grow my knowledge and interest in the area of First Nations cultural information and Treaties. We are on a path to reconciliation. On the OTC website, they have a great message about this:

Reconciliation is about…
exploring the past
and choosing to build a better future.

It’s understanding each other
and building trust.

It’s recognizing that
We Are All Treaty People.

The video on their home page speaks to this so well also. Where will I start? I am working towards embracing the concept that we are all Treaty People, and I think that this is such a great message to share with students. We are all part of our history, and will all contribute to a better tomorrow.

I’ll leave you with a few great videos that some Saskatchewan schools have done about this message. I think it would be a great project to do with a class!


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