This weekend (Saturday, October 21st) I had the opportunity to attend Treaty Ed Camp that was hosted at the University of Regina. Originally, I was expecting the camp to be sort of like a showcase about First Nations Culture but I was surprised to find out it was more like a classroom/lecture about Canada and colonialism. The day started out with a keynote speaker and from there broke out into smaller sessions throughout the day. Each session had different speakers and different topics so I was able to attend the ones I had the most interest in.
The opening speaker was a woman named Charlene Bearhead. She is a teacher, community leader and she emphasizes that most important of all she is a mother and a grandmother. She is also not from treaty 4, she was visiting from treaty 6. There were a few points that Charlene made in her keynote speech, one of them being: we all have a role and responsibility in reconciliation and the other being we must educate children about the truth of Canadian history instead of shielding them from it. I really liked how she was incredibly blunt about the topics, she never beat around the bush and just jumped right into the topic. I find a lot of people do this with their speeches about difficult topics and the message gets lost because of it. I think her point about everyone having a role and responsibility when it comes to reconciliation was really important because a lot of people step out of it and think “that’s not my problem” when really it is. We are all treaty people; we live on treaty land, and we have treaty rights. It is everyone’s problem so we should all be a part of reconciliation. As a future educator, I think the point about teaching children about treaty education was really important. Charlene made the comment “It is easier to teach something to a child and get them to learn it than trying to get them to un-learn something.”, I think as someone who is going to be teaching children I really need to take this from her speech. If we raise children to understand treaty education we won’t have to worry about trying to “fix” their mindset when they are older. We have that problem now, children were misinformed growing up and now we have a generation who is unaware of the damage they have caused, but it’s too late because it’s too hard to get them to unlearn everything they did as children. My goal as an educator will be to give them all the tools they need to be the generation that finally helps Canada get to reconciliation.
Two important sessions that I attended after the keynote speaker were “Making Indigenous Languages Trendy” with Bill Cook and “Shattering the Silence: The Hidden History of Indian Residential Schools in Saskatchewan” an ebook by commissioned author Shuana Niessen. The first session I went to was the one with Bill Cook. I actually found out that he used to go to the same school that I did. It was interesting to hear what he had to say about the school when he went there. He said that he was the minority there at the time. But in my experience, the school is very multicultural, so much that I would say that white Canadians are the minority there now. It was neat to see how much things had changed from when he went to school there to when I went there. The main takeaway from his presentation was that in order to keep Indigenous languages alive we have to implement them in such a way to make them seem “cool” so that children will choose to learn it. The other important session I went to was the presentation of the ebook by Shuana Niessen. This presentation was about an ebook that was made right here at the University of Regina. The book goes into depth about residential schools that were right here in Saskatchewan. It also has links within it that take you to many different websites and sources. If you ever have to do a research project on residential schools I would highly recommend it as a resource.
In the end, it wasn’t what I expected but it still did not disappoint in any way. I think I have a better understanding of what it means to be a treaty person and what I need to do as one. We all live on treaty land and that means we have a responsibility to respect it and acknowledge the history of it. I will act on this newly gained information by trying to educate the next generation on Treaty Education. Charlene herself said it best when she said that we can’t fix the attitudes of those in the government right now because it’s too late, they’re adults and they won’t change their perspectives. But the ones who are going to be those people, are the ones sitting in classrooms right now and we can educate them so that they will eventually make the proper decisions that will one-day complete reconciliation.