View from the top of the hill at the Treaty 4 Gathering
After attending Treaty 4 gathering on Wednesday, there have been a number of things that I have been mulling over. First, I have been reflecting on what it really meant to participate in a blanket exercise on the land where Treaty Four was signed and where one of the first Indian Residential Schools of Canada was opened. I have been thinking about the communities that were left with no children because they were forced into residential schools, and what that would have been like as a parent to have your child taken. I have been thinking about the tension and the struggles that this land has experienced and the struggles that the Indigenous Peoples have experienced here since colonization. I have been thinking about what it would have been like as woman to have lost Treaty Status and then be unable to return home, to my family. I have been thinking about all of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous women that have been lost. I have been thinking about the loss of culture and language and how some of this knowledge is gone forever, never to be recovered. But mostly, I have been thinking about how this side of the story, this part of history has been silenced for far too long. Colonization, cultural genocide, forced assimilation and Indian Residential Schools are simply not part of the national grand narrative and it really needs to be. It’s important to our society that this part of the story is told.
Secondly, despite of all of the negativity surrounding this area of the Qu’Appelle Valley, I had this indescribable, overwhelming sense of peace. Perhaps this is because the valley, so rich in history is also extremely beautiful with rolling hills, shades of autumn amongst the tree tops and the blue waters of Echo and Mission Lakes that sandwich Fort Qu’Appelle at the center. The sheer beauty of the valley is breath-taking and made me wonder: how am I connected to this space? This place? I felt a strong sense of peace, centeredness and connectedness to the land and valley.
After all of these thoughts and experiences I have decided that my pledge as part of my ESST 317 assignment will be two-fold. First, I pledge that I will contribute my time as a STARS volunteer facilitating the blanket exercise at least once a month, so that I can help educate people on the long and complicated relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people of Canada. Doing so will fulfill my obligation to contribute to the society that I live in. Additionally, it will help me unpack my thoughts and feelings towards being a white, settler Canadian steeped in privilege. I can connect this to the grade 6 Social Studies Outcome IN6.1:Evaluate and represent personal beliefs and values by determining how culture and place influence them. Secondly, I pledge to myself to begin the practise of daily self-care. This may be in the form of going for a walk with my dog, or practising mindfulness. I think this is an important step for me to be able to continue to give of myself because as a busy mom of three children, I often put myself and my needs last which in the end doesn’t work because I become completely depleted. Practising self care will help me stay centered and focused and will also assist in maintaining the peacefulness I felt while spending time in the Fort Qu’Appelle Valley.