We Are All Treaty People

Today I decided to visit the “We Are All Treaty People” gallery at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum here in Regina, Sk as part of my Treaty Walk. I  had no idea what to expect, and had very little understanding about what I was going to learn. As soon as I walked into the museum a kind woman welcomed me and directed me to the exhibit, down the stairs and to my right. I followed her instructions and was immediately taken back by the display as soon as I entered the room. It was set up in such a delicate way, and I felt myself feeling to grateful that I had made the time to visit.

The very first thing I  looked at were plaques that described what a Treaty is and what it means to make a promise. They defined treaties as “formal, ratified agreements between states or nations. The Sovereign Indigenous Nations agreed to sign Treaties with the Government of Canada (the Crown) to assure that their people and their descendants would prosper.” They also note that if there are any changes that are going to take place in regards to the treaties, all parties need to take part in the negotiations. Additionally, a word that seemed to be highlighted throughout the exhibit is perpetuity- meaning that treaties do not expire. When looking at promises, it stated that “While some promises were not always kept, the treaties and the promises they contain area as valid and important today as they day they were signed.” 

The exhibit also spoke to the different understandings that each group had, and the different world views in which they were coming from. There was a beautiful mural painted on a wall with scrolls that described both “The Crown’s Agenda” and “The Indian’s Agenda.” It was amazing to walk through and read the two completely different perspectives. It then gave a brief description of the aftermath, and spoke about the Indian Act and what the treaties really looked like.

I then had the opportunity to view The Chief Paskwa Pictograph, the only known Indigenous interpretation of a treaty in Canada.I have seen images throughout different seminars and online, but there is nothing like seeing it in person. I now know that a pictograph is a form of writing used by the Plains Cree. This specific pictograph represents the things promised in Treaty 4. Chief Paskwa wanted this pictograph to be delivered to Queen Victoria, however she never ended up seeing it. In 1883 it was given to William Burneby, ended up being sold in an auction in 2000, was repatriated by the Pasqua First Nations in 2007, and is now in Regina. It is crazy to think that something that is so important, has been in so many places before finding somewhere in which it is valued. Through a little bit of digging, it is also very clear to see that Deciphering Paskwa Pictograph is not a simple, fast process. The exhibit explained that “Elders of Treaty 4 continue to conduct ceremonies and follow Pasqua First Nation’s protocols to ensure that the interpretations o the pictograph is done ‘in the right way.'”

As long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows we are all treaty people.”

 I also enjoyed how during my time at the museum I could learn specifically about Treaty 4. The document was signed on September 15th, 1874 and a reproduction of the document showed the 13 who signed marked with an “X.” It was so very interesting to see the reproduction, it brought what I had heard throughout university into perspective and I felt like I could connect some dots. They also outlined the promises made in Treaty 4 in a way that was very easy for me to understand. There was so much in this exhibit that helped further my understanding about treaties, promises, pictographs and Treaty 4.

“If the relationship with the land ever ended, we would cease to be aboriginal people.”

After visiting this gallery I felt like I had learned so much! Little did I know, there was so much more to see!

I got to read about story telling and how stories are used to teach people how to find their identities, and about their specific purposes in life. They are also used to teach specific concepts such as patience, values, behaviour, as well as respect. A fun fact that I learned is that, stories are only told in the winter because they are so interesting. They explained that if they were told all year round, no one would get anything done.

I am very grateful that I have been able to participate in a round dance before. A round dance typically takes place beginning late in the evening, and ending early in the morning. People gather together and dance in a connected circle to represent that fact that all are equal. From this gallery I learned that the drum-beat represents mother earth, and the song represents thankfulness, unity, and togetherness. There is also significance with the Northern Lights, as some believe that they are the Old Ones who have come to dance, and who bring beauty and healing. Men and women are allowed to participate in the round dance, however there are many other dances in this culture. These dances serve many purposes. Some are of sacred origin, some are used to honour, and all of these dances should be cherished and respected.

I was unable to take part in the pipe ceremony during our class. For this reason, I was happy that the exhibit had information for me to find out more. It explained ceremonies as a way to provide confirmation of in individual’s role in society and the world.  “The smoking of the pipe is a sacred experience for Indian people and is an integral part of their spirituality. Sharing the pipe is a way of giving thanks to, and seeking guidance from, the Creator.” While participating in a sacred and complex pipe ceremony, participants offer the smoke in all directions as the pipe is passed. This offering reaffirms the connection between humans and their spiritual kin in the circle of life (physical world of water, earth and rock, the plant world, the animal world, & the Creator and the powers of the four directions, the earth and the sky). It is very important to understand and emphasize that these ceremonies differ depending on the group of people participating.

This picture shows an ancient site in southern Saskatchewan. This gallery was my favourite as it spoke about beautiful places being considered sacred because the presence of the Creator was immediately felt there. These specific places were visited by people in order for them to be closer to the spiritual world. They believe that humans must work with the earth, plants, and animals for mutual survival. “The Spirituality of the earth and that it offers must be respected.”

“If you took humans away from the earth, the earth would still live. That is how unimportant humans really are.”

I highly recommend that everyone should visit this museum!

– Ms. S

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