ECCU 400

miskâsowin: Treaty Identities Exploration

My miskâsowin journey is like blood flowing to and from the heart. These blue branches are the superior and inferior vena cava which receive unoxygenated blood from the body. They represent my family history and the culture, values, religious beliefs, assumptions, motivations, and dreams that my White settler ancestors carried with them from their countries of origin to treaty 4 and treaty 6 land in what is now Canada. The blue of the arteries represents that the blood within is unoxygenated. It is stale and ignorant. That sounds severe but it represents the reality of my settler ancestors. They had blinders on that they didn’t even realize were there. All they knew of Canada is what the Canadian government told them. Their motivations for coming to Canada were to find success and freedom by exploiting the land through farming. The racing horses represent their ambition to get ahead on this land. My ancestors benefited from treaties by being able to live on the land that had been stolen from the First Nations people.

My miskâsowin is what has led to me, represented by the heart itself. On the left side of the heart is what I have inherited from my ancestors, it is where the unoxygenated blood flows. It is the normative narratives that I have always been surrounded by, enforced, and never questioned before I began on this treaty journey. Narratives such as the celebration of the pioneer, terra nullius, celebrating Canada, especially as a multi-cultural nation, and patriotism as I explored through the problems with my Canadian wardrobe in my first weekly engagement. This is the Canadian government logo and represents my citizenship as a Canadian but also the injustices Indigenous peoples have endured from my country. The racetrack is representative of my privilege as a white person in Canada.

The red veins feeding the heart are the pulmonary veins that carry oxygenated blood from the lungs to the heart. These represent my education. Like blood, education is life-giving, revitalizing, and provides nourishment and energy. This tunnel represents education helping me emerge from darkness into light by removing the blinders of ignorance regarding colonization, treaties, and residential schools. Through my treaty journey, I have experienced what it is to live treaties and not just regurgitate some canned answer put together from a History book. In these teachings I have learned about kihci-asotamâtowin and what treaties meant and still mean to Indigenous peoples. In my second weekly engagement I connected the sacredness of treaties to my own wedding vows. Just as I was one third of the vows made between me, my husband, and God, I am one third of the sacred treaty promise made between First Nations peoples, Canada, and the Creator. I also attempted to honour kihci-asotamâtowin in my fourth weekly engagement in a poem I wrote called atamiskâkêwin which means handshake. My education has helped me acknowledge my place in treaties as represented by the handshake and some of the literature I have read. I included quotes that acknowledge my awakening to the existence of white privilege I circumstantially possess and some personal mindful treaty acknowledgements. My current spiritual understanding is also included by this picture of a cross that hangs in my home. Although I am Roman Catholic, I reject most of its teachings and instead choose to follow the teachings of Christ. It’s not at all a coincidence how closely Christ’s teachings align with the treaty understandings of miyo-wîcêhtowin, wîtaskêwin, tâpwêwin, wâhkôhtowin and wiyôhtâwîmâw.

With my education has come a lot of tension, questions, and uncertainties. If “[m]ainstream education is an extension of colonization insofar as it has been used to promote a dominant narrative of the past and privilege certain ways of knowing” (Tupper & Capello, 2008, p. 563), how do I disrupt curriculum while still meeting outcomes? How do I bring treaties into the classroom while avoiding merely incorporating or infusing them (Donald, 2013)? I know full well I will continue living on this land, thus benefiting from it, but how do I do this without being a hypocrite? Confronting my privilege is an ongoing struggle for me. I have succeeded in society from no skill or talent of my own but from the circumstances I happened to be born into. Because of this I still benefit from treaties through the land. Experiences during our treaty walks presented struggles and tensions that I was previously unaware of. Speakers corner, Dewdney Avenue, the monument in the Lebret cemetery and the John A. Macdonald statue all represent spaces that celebrate white supremacy while ignoring the oppression of First Nations peoples. Pam Palmater says, “Canada has been created on a very problematic foundation of us vs them” and this is obvious in spaces like the Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery.

The red arteries flowing out of the heart are the aorta which carry oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. They represent my treaty identity and responsibilities that I will take with me beyond the UofR. Responsibilities such as  miyo-wîcêhtowin, wîtaskêwin, and wâhkôhtowin. Pam Palmater said “the most important thing Canadians can do is self-educate” and I know I am responsible for educating myself and speaking tâpwêwin to those around me. I also will take with me humility as I know I am still on my treaty journey and still have so much to learn.

In the actual heart, the unoxygenated and oxygenated blood are separated by the heart wall. I didn’t include a clear separation between the normative narratives in my life and what I have gained in my treaty journey because I wanted to show the messiness of it all and the tensions that I will always experience between where I come from and where I’m going.

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