What a wonderful experience. This past Wednesday myself, professors, and fellow pre-interning classmates in the University of Regina Education Faculty had the opportunity to travel to Fort Qu’Appelle for the 31st Annual Treaty 4 Gathering. We were advised to attend this gathering with the thought in mind to expect to give not to go expecting. Now, this doesn’t mean you literally HAVE to give something (though you could if you wanted to) it could simply mean that you are giving an open mind that is ready to learn; it’s open to interpretation. So, off we went!
When we first arrived at the gathering it was simply amazing to see all of the teepees, people, vehicles, etc. but what really stood out to me was how open everything was. You were free to explore and do your own thing, you were free to go at your own pace with no real specifically set times. How wonderful! There was also this lovely bulletin board to tell everyone what was happening in each of the different teepees.
Let me tell you, the morning went by WAY too fast! There was just so much to explore, so much new learning to take place, it was wonderful. So, with the (what seemed like little) time we had in the morning I checked out three teepees in specific. The first was the Treaty 4 Cheif Gallery where there was either a photograph or painting of some sorts with a description of each of the chiefs that had signed to create Treaty 4. While viewing the gathering there was a discussion where I learned that when Treaty 4 was signed not all of the chiefs signed at the same time. In fact, because of the varying lengths (interruptions/delays in travel), certain chiefs actually signed the treaty at different times.
The second was a display of different beadwork. Which let me tell you is simply amazing! Especially when you start to think about some of the time and hard work that goes into making each item. Each design seems to be different, yet also seems to follow a pattern. Beautiful!
The third teepee I checked out was one about Indigenous math where we learned about different games to help teach students to learn how to count and such. At this time, I learned two of these games, the first being referred to as stick game and the second, hand game. The first (stick game) relies more heavily on going with your gut instinct, this game teaches children to rely on their natural, or first, instinct. Traditionally, this game would be played over the winter months. This was an exciting game to play, as it can be competitive (some schools even have competitions where the whole school gets together and plays against each other from grades 1-12). The second game, hand game, relies more heavily on luck and counting. Vi, did a wonderful job explaining and helping us to understand how to play and teaching us some of the rules while explaining the meaning behind the different actions and what they symbolize. I would for sure, LOVE the opportunity for myself or my students to learn more about hand game again!
During lunch, while there was still numerous events going on at each teepee, there were events going on in the middle. On site, there were numerous food vendors (I had an Indian Taco for lunch YUM- and for those that do not know, an Indian Taco is basically bannock on the bottom with the ingredients for taco salad on top! – I don’t think that could get any better!). While lunch was being eaten and socializing was occurring the M.C. began and there was a drumming circle followed by a powwow! How wonderful! After a few performances, everyone was even invited up to give it a try. Hope no one was watching my feet too carefully (sometimes I am certainly not the most coordinated)!
Into the afternoon I attended my second Blanket exercise. I would highly recommend doing so if you have never done one before! I would even begin preparing my students (if I had any) to participate in a blanket exercise as it is such a wonderful learning tool for what can be a very emotional thing to learn/experience. The University of Regina, U.R. S.T.A.R.S. group does different sessions and often facilitates blanket exercises. I would certainly look into having or doing this with your student’s classroom teachers!
After this, I had another opportunity to go and explore the old grounds for the Residential school in Lebret; which is approximately six kilometers away. What a feeling! There is such history that has taken place on those grounds (as well as in many other places in Saskatchewan- well all over Canada really). It is crucial we, especially as educators, recognize what has taken place. Along with the effects of traumatic events, such as Residential schools, that have taken place and continue to affect the lives of Indigenous peoples everyday.
So, for this post, I would like to conclude that this journey each one of us takes in learning about treaty education is endless. There is so much knowledge out there and it is our responsibility, as educators, to continue to learn, grow and teach our students the knowledge we have learned to the absolute best of our ability because it is crucial. It is crucial because treaty education affects every person, we are all treaty people and it is time to take responsibility for that.