My First Powwow

Throughout my treaty walk, I have found so much value in looking around to find posters. I noticed a poster while walking through the university for the First Nations University of Canada Powwow.  I have never been to a powwow, so thought it would something that would further my treaty walk. I had no plans on Sunday, but found it so hard to find the motivation to go. It isn’t because I was scared or nervous, it was just because I kept making other excuses. Eventually at 5, I had to just tell myself to get up and go. Holy moly I was so grateful that I did.

I walked in, purchased my wrist band, and was immediately happily overwhelmed with the environment I was immersed in. It was amazing. I looked around and there were vendors selling beautiful beaded items and ribbon skirts. There were people walking around who were so happy to be here. There were dancers dressed sooo amazingly. There were children running around and having the best time. There was a sense of community that I have never been a part of before.

I walked around and was so very content in where I was. I found a traditional food booth, grabbed a bannock burger, and found a seat to watch the dancing. There were about 800 dancers, dancing in unison, and dancing to the heartbeat of the creator (drum). I spoke to a man and he explained that this is probably the biggest powwow that he has seen. Some of the dances I experienced were Traditional, Grass, Fancy Shall, Fancy, and Jingle. Each of these were unique and I could not take my eyes off of them.

“Lots of colour, lots of movement.”

The new Miss First Nations University of Canada gave a powerful speech that talked about the significance of the pow wow. She talked about how people come here to find out who they are, and where they come from. It helps her to embrace who she is and her culture. It also helped her to grow together with her family and learn about their culture together. The most powerful portion of her speech was when she spoke about how people tried to take dance away, but it continues to be passed on from generation to generation.

“Everybody just really enjoys being here because it uplifts people.”

Additionally, the 2016-17 Miss First Nations University of Canada followed this and explained that there are two important educations for First Nations peoples. The first is to finish grade 12, and to move on to post secondary education. The second is to learn their language and to learn about their culture from their parents and elders. She stressed how important both of these educations are for First Nations peoples.

While sitting in the stands, I was able to connect with a man that told me a little bit more information about powwows. He told me that the most important part of his dance attire was the beads, and that each year he adds small pieces, as they are very time consuming to create. He has been dancing in this particular one for 6 years, but it gets more and more intricate each year. Another thing I found interesting was the timing of this event. He talked about how it seemed that on Sunday they didn’t rush at all. I was shocked when the grand entry was supposed to start at 7, but rather started at 8:30. This just proves that I am always so focused and limited by time in my life. When first arriving I only intended staying for a short while, however, found myself leaving after 4 hours. I learned so much from this experience, and feel like it has impacted my treaty walk.

– Ms. S

Welcome to Fort Qu’Appelle

When first being told we were going to be involved in planning a land experience, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I figured that I would gander on over to Fort Qu’Appelle, look around, and come right back home. It turns out that there would be so much more to this amazing experience with the land.

Today when I woke up, I felt like I was going on a class field trip like back in elementary school. I packed my snacks, tied up my runners, threw on my backpack, and was out the door. I only realized my excitement for the day when I met my other classmates outside of the school. We all packed into our carpools and made the journey to what would be an amazing, thought provoking day.

When we first arrived it took me a moment to kind of adjust to my surroundings. I took time to look around at the buildings located in this town, talk with my classmates to see how they were feeling, and made myself feel a little more comfortable. When we began walking down the street someone passing by looked to our group and said the words Welcome to Fort Qu’Appelle.” Four simple words immediately made me feel at ease.

A time that I really appreciated was lunch. We all came together and had a potluck. Growing up I have always had potlucks at church on Sunday. It see it as a time to catch up with others, and to create a sense of community and sharing over food. It meant so much to have everyone contribute what they could, and to see how every single person appreciated it so much. During lunch I also got to take some time to shoot some hoops with Chris, one of Sheena Koops students. We didn’t share very many words, but he told me a little bit about myself and stated how happy he was that he joined us. This made my heart the happiest to hear. Additionally, as I wandered though the school I also came across a witaskewin poster hiding in the corner. I don’t know how I found it, but feel like today was meant to be.

The wind was blowing and I was freezing. The only thing I could do was huddle closer into the crowd of people to stay warm. I could barely hear with all of the extra background noise, but tried my best to engage in what the elder was saying. With all of these outside factors, I was still so happy to be in this moment. I was even more appreciative when his daughter sang us the amazing song about a Kookum who comforts those entering the spirit world, and who she looks to for guidance. I was immediately overwhelmed and regretted all the thoughts running through my head about being cold. I was hit with the realization that this truly was impacting my treaty walk.

“Reconciliation happens in back alleys”

When I got home I took time to go for a walk around Wascana, and this is where I chose to give my tobacco back to the land. While in this moment I thought about how the elder at the All Nations Healing Hospital said that we are all equal. He told us to put our hands up in a circle and stated that we ALL belong here, and that we share ALL the land. It also stuck with me that I need to remain humble.

Now as I sit in my warm bed and really think about today, I realize how grateful I am to have experienced this. I also recognize how my treaty walk does not end here. I still have so much more growing to do. This is just the beginning. I want to end this post with a poster from the school about peace.

“Take what you have learned today and do something with it.”

– Ms. S

Cultural Creativity

After attending the Ribbon Skirt Making workshop, I was informed that there is a Cultural Creativity Workshop that takes place every Monday. They are workshops are focused on beading and after my last experiences, I knew I had to attend!

I walked into the Aboriginal Student Centre and it looked like nothing was going on. I immediately started to panic and thought that I had the wrong time. I looked at a white board that contained the schedule and confirmed that I was correct. I walked up to a random table and asked if they knew where this workshop was and they replied with, “Right here! Have a seat!” I introduced myself to the four people around the table got right to work.

I explained that I had never beaded before, and the instructor was very understanding and took me through the process step by step. I first had to practice a line of beads on a straight line, and a line of beads on a curved line. This is done by adding 9 beads onto the string (it is always done in multiples of three), tacking it down three times, finishing with a knot, and then adding 9 beads at a time, until it is complete. The picture below show the before and after of my first time beading!

After I completed this initial step, I was instructed to bead a heart. Because it was my first time I was not very fast, made mistakes, and got frustrated pretty easily. The leader kept insuring me that it is okay to make mistakes, and to just keep trying. “Everyone starts somewhere,” was a phrase that he kept repeating. By the end of the workshop I found that I was getting faster, but time wasn’t on my side! I was able to go around the heart once. I fully attend to go back and finish this project!

The instructor gave me information about beading, and about their culture that I had not known about before. He told stories about how he learned to bead from his father, and his childhood was filled of memories of his father shaking his leg as he created beautiful things out of beads. I was made aware of how people start beading, lose track of time and are suddenly immersed in their work for hours upon hours. Additionally, he spoke about the conversations that take place around a table of people who are beading. It gives them a chance to build relationships, learn new things, and to connect in a different way.

I got asked a question that kind of stuck with me. The instructor chose his words very carefully and asked me, “Did you expect a woman to be teaching this workshop when you first walked in?” I took a moment before I answered and stated that I did, but was also coming in with an open mind and had no expectations set in stones. It really made me step back and think of the assumptions that people make, myself included. Overall, this is something that had an impact on me for sure!

I hope to attend one more time to finish my project!

– Ms. S

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

Engaging in Stillness

Wîtaskêwin

 Living together on the land

This week I had to opportunity to lead a seminar about Land Relationships and Experiences. It was different, scary, but also motivating and humbling being able to help my classmates in their treaty walks.

First, we gave them to think of the land that they connect with and fostered discussion around why they connect with this land, and how they show respect to this land. We talked about the relationships between treaties in the land. In preparation for our treaty walk we also discussed Treaty 4 Land. Lastly, we talked about how the land provides Indigenous peoples with a way of living, and what they need to thrive in the world. All of these topics led us to the most important part of our seminar, stillness.

We instructed our classmates to set an alarm for 15 minutes. They were then to go outside, pick a spot, and sit in solitude with the land. The rest was all up to them.

As I looked around, I could see other university students walking through the green staring in confusion at all the random people sitting contently on the green. It was like it was something they had never seen before, and that they were questioning what was going on. I was suddenly overwhelmed and almost felt bad that there were not able to experience this amazing moment. It also made me realize that we don’t engage in stillness almost at all in life. I am constantly rushing around from one thing to the next, that I never actually go outside and embrace and appreciate my surroundings.

When their timers went off, everyone arose in unison, and joined us for a circle talk. We discussed if anyone had any difficulties not looking at their phone during this time, how they felt during this time of stillness, and if this is something that they can see taking place during our land experience. It was so interesting hearing what everyone had to say. Some found it very challenging, while it brought others back to their childhood. Overall, I think everyone took something meaningful out of this experience.

Kā-miyikowisiyahk

– What the powers have given us

After taking time to engage in stillness, we asked our classmates to tell us how they felt during this experience through a menti. Some of the words that stuck out to them were calming, relaxing, happy and peaceful. I hope that we can take what we have done today, and apply it as we go into our land experience very soon.

– Ms. S

Taking Time For Myself

Take care of yourself.

I can be very honest when I say that this is something that a rarely do. I get so caught up in my day to day life, that I never step back and do things to better myself. There is homework to be done, errands to run, appointments to make, and all other commitments that I make from day to day. Today is making me realize that I need to step back and make the time to take care of myself.

“It’s not selfish to love yourself, take care of yourself, and to make your happiness a priority. It’s necessary.” – Mandy Hale

In order to take time for myself today, I set down my homework (which was really hard at this point in the semester), wandered around the university, and got tea with a lovely friend. There were so many things racing through my mind, that it took me a while to really feel present in the situation. Once these thoughts settled, I realized that I was so content. It was exactly what I needed. I came to the realization that throughout my four years of schooling, I only did things like this a handful of times. I now wish that I could go back and create more opportunities like this. I don’t want to look back and think of what I could have done, but rather, I came up with a list of ideas that I am going to try make a priority in my life:

  • Having a cup of tea
  • Painting my nails
  • Meeting up with a friend
  • Watching Netflix
  • Spending time with my family
  • Going for a walk
  • Do it yourself projects
  • Reading for enjoyment
  • Taking naps
  • Going to the lake
  • Trying new recipes

Whenever I am walking though the university I am always cautious of the things that are going on around me. I watch the people who are rushing through the halls, the people who are scrambling to finish an assignment, the people who are excited and joyful about life, the people who enthusiastically tell their friends stories, the people who wait in the extremely long Tim Hortons line to get coffee, and the people who are just enjoying the whole atmosphere of university. Today I was also watching to see if any people were taking time for themselves. I came to the conclusion that there are not many opportunities here at university for people to do this. The buildings are set up for people to take classes and to study. Yes, that is the purpose of a university, but isn’ there more to it? Should there not be an emphasis placed on the self care of the students attending this university? Overall, I really think a space directed to students taking care of themselves should be established in our school. The amount students, such as myself, would benefit from a safe, relaxing, and comfortable space would be outstanding.

“You owe yourself the love that you so freely give to other people.”

Take time for yourselves friends 🙂

– Ms. S

My Ribbon Skirt

While walking through the university the other day I noticed a sign that caught my eye, and recognized that it could help me in my Treaty Walk. I was lucky enough to not have classes on Fridays, so attended this workshop on March 17th with no idea what to expect!

I walked into a room filled with tables, fabric, sewing machines, and a few people who looked like they knew what they were doing. I should let you know that I have done some sewing before, but that was in grade nine. Sooo, I haven’t practiced in about seven years, but was hoping for the best!

I was immediately welcomed into the workshop and everyone was thrilled that I wanted to make a ribbon skirt. The first step was to pick my fabric! I chose a pretty light pink colour. I then had to cut this fabric into two pieces for the front and back of my skirt.

Once I cut the pieces, I got to choose the ribbon I wanted on my skirt. I chose three colours that I thought went the best with my fabric. I proceeded to pin the ribbon on to my skirt. Once they were all pinned, I was told it was going to be very hard to sew… and that there is an easier way. I was not confident in my sewing abilities, so had to take my pins out and start all over. I was then able to nicely iron my ribbons down flat with some type of adhesive that held them in place. I was now ready to sew!

To tell you the truth, I was terrified! I haven’t used a sewing machine in years and just knew that I was probably going to destroy this skirt. The sewing machine had so many different dials and settings that I had no idea what to do with. With a little bit of instruction, I decided to just wing it. In the end I only had to rip out one line of stitches, so I consider it a success. I sewed my ribbon on, hemmed the bottom, created a waste band, and sewed the two sides to become one. And VOILA, I had a ribbon skirt!

I did run into one problem, it took me the full 2 hours to make the skirt, so I had not tried it on at any point. When I got home, I decided to show my mom what I had made! She told me it looked lovely and she wanted to see it on. When I went to slip into the skirt, it fit, but was a tiny bit too snug. I then got a little lecture from my mom stating, “don’t you know that when you sew a skirt you have to measure the biggest part on your body, not your little waist.” Oops, sorry mom! Now I know for next time!

Going into this experience I had no idea what a ribbon skirt was. The instructor told me about an elder that showed her a video that describes the meaning and significance of the ribbon skirt, that I found very helpful. I also found that I was able to learn so much when I just sat back and observed. The ladies spoke about how sometimes before they sew a skirt they will smudge themselves, as well as their material before beginning. It is little details like this that help me learn so much and that I am grateful for.

 

Overall, I am very happy with how my skirt turned out! I would like to take the time to create another one that fits me perfectly, but am so happy that I experienced this workshop!

– Ms. S

oski-pimohtahtamwak otayisiniwiwaw

Oski-pimohtahtamwak otayisiniwiwaw

– “They are into their new journey to knowledge”

This day was amazing. We were visited by Sheena Koops and her class from Bert Fox Community High School. The boys all introduced themselves, and took the time to each explain a topic to our class.

The topic that stood out to me the most was the explanation of what students could learn from the blanket exercise. The young man spoke with so much passion and shared person accounts about how his family has been torn apart because of residential schools. He feels as though he is walking with two identities. One is when he is speaking to us, and the other is when he goes home to his family. He even learned English before his own language. He just kept repeating the phrase, “this could be more dark.” Overall I found it so hard to sit through, as I felt like I was learning so much from the hardships that he and his family have, and continue to endure. I can not express the gratitude I have for the heartfelt and meaningful presentation he shared.

I loved when they spoke about reconciliation. One boy explained it as, a call to action for every Canadian. Everyone should be a part of it, and not ignore it. To ignore it would mean to not be Canadian. They also explain it using the words, leadership, humility, and generosity. Us white settlers just like to put so many fancy names on everything. Sheena explained that the fact that she has created such strong and admirable relationships with her students is reconciliation in itself. I think everyone should look up to the amazing thing that Sheena, as well as her students have created.

You can easily tell how much this program is changing and benefitting students. One boy stated that “I’ve learned so much and I’ve only been there for two days.” It is statements like this that prove the impact it is having on them, and on the people they come in contact with.

“A sign is a very simple thing, she said it’s an important step to show people in the community that diversity is welcomed and appreciated.”

Notice the Exclamation Point!

“It is not necessary to say sorry. Simply participating is enough.”

– Ms. S

Creating a Metis Sash

Two summers ago, I learned about the Metis Sash from my auntie. She was in the SUNTEP program in Saskatoon, and has a passion for teaching others about Metis peoples. After learning about Metis people in this class, I wanted her to refresh what I learned about the Sash and relearn how to make my own out of yarn. She is currently teaching in Korea, so I contacted her over Facebook and she gave me everything I needed to know.

When teaching her students about the sash she first introduces Metis Culture. She then goes into explanation about the sash, and how it is a symbol of Metis identity. She explained that it would be amazing to have access to a real sash in order to show students what it looks like, how to wear it, and explain its traditional uses.

She also provided me with many articles that have been so much help:

After learning more about the Metis Sash, I was ready to create my own. The colours I chose to interconnect are yellow, representing prosperity and green, representing growth. I found a beginners Youtube video that walked me through it step by step.

My final product definitely isn’t perfect, but I tried my best. Throughout this experience I learned that you need to reach out to the people around you, because they can help you learn so much. In the beginning I did not expect that my very own auntie could help me learn about the Metis Sash and further my treaty walk.

– Ms. S

Métis in the Middle & Seminar

The Métis culture is something that I had not known very much about in going into Russell Fayant’s presentation, and the seminar conducted by my classmates. After being involved in these two presentations, I now know that there is so much more that I need to learn in order to help not only myself understand, but my future students as well.

What/Who is Metis?

A Metis person may be broadly defined as a person who has ancestry from First Nations and Europeans, but it’s more than just people who descended from mixed marriages. It is something more complex as a person who is Métis is:

  • Recognized by a Métis community
  • Self declared as a Métis person
  • and has ancestry traced back to a historic community (ex. Red River)

Additionally, I chose to visit the bulletin board on the second floor of College West in order to further my understanding about the Métis flag. This flag is the oldest flag indigenous to Canada. The Métis flag has an infinity symbol that represents “two nations coming together to make something different and new which will last forever.”  There is both a blue flag, as well as a red flag. The red flag is known as the hunting flag, and was traditionally flown by Métis who worked for the HBC. The blue flag is associated with the Scottish/French Métis who largely worked for the Northwest Company out of Montreal. It was very first flown in 1816 in the Qu’Appelle Valley. Lastly, it is interesting to know that Regina was the first city in Canada to permanently fly the Métis flag at its City Hall.

What role did Metis people play in Treaties?

 

This beautiful wampum was created by Christi Belcourt and represents the twinning of different world views. No matter what, people will always be intertwined.

 

 

“It’s not who you claim to be.. it’s who claims you. Everyone of you has a community who claims you to be a part of their community” – Russell Fayant

During our seminar we got to take part in an activity. The goal of this activity was to negotiate with my group members in order to come up with a mutual agreement. I was given the role of Métis interpreter. My role was to relay information between the First Nations Group and the European Group. It sounds easy, however, sometimes I don’t quite speak the exact same dialect, so it caused many problems. I was also able to lie and twist information to my own liking. This caused both groups to agree to terms that they didn’t fully understand. I was able to make simple mistakes that completely altered what both groups thought they were signing. I felt like I had so much power and control, and that both groups trusted me so much, even though they didn’t know the power I had. I felt like in the end, the Treaty they signed, had so much to do with what information I chose to share. This small activity put so much into perspective in regards to the role of the Métis interpreters.

There are so many other things that I still need to discover about Métis peoples. I am so happy that I have had this short introduction, but there is still so much more work I need to do.

“It is amazing that Métis culture is still standing. It was held together because of their communities” – Russell Fayant 

– Ms. S