Indigenous Awareness Week: Treaties, Traditional Knowledge and Elders
Every event that takes place at the U of M opens with an acknowledgment statement about the university being on Treaty 1 lands.
“And as a Cree woman, that’s very meaningful and significant,” says Deborah Young, executive lead, Indigenous achievement.
“But I often wondered if people understood the reason why we do that.”
This was partly the impetus for a focus on Treaties, Traditional Knowledge and Elders during the inaugural Indigenous Awareness Week, which takes place Mar. 16 to 21. Indigenous achievement, along with the Aboriginal Student Centre, and the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba are bringing together Elders, Knowledge Keepers, academics, students and community members to bring awareness to Treaties and their relevance for Canada, Manitoba and the University of Manitoba.
The list of panel topics and people for the week is impressive. “I’m really, really excited about the week, covering a lot of different topics, says Young. “We tried to get our Knowledge Holders in, our Elders, [and] to get a good mixture including student perspectives coming in with our scholars.”
UPDATE: Below are photos from events that took place throughout the week.
‘an interactive opportunity for community’
Young says, “We had an amazing discussion with Ralph Stern, dean of the Faculty of Architecture, and the members of the panel, during our planning session for “Honouring Indigenous Identity Through Spaces and Names” [next Wednesday].
“We’re hoping to have students involved and really have a deep discussion about what are the obligations and the opportunities, as future architects, to respond to Indigenous need and Indigenous culture — and how can they go about [becoming] more informed about what that requires. We are going to ask Elder Charlie Nelson about what it means to create culturally affirming space, from an Elder’s perspective. He was involved with some of the initial planning around Migizii Agamik…. And Mike [Robertson] will speak about relationship-building and what is our obligation, for both architects and non-architects, to develop that relationship. Destiny [Seymour] will be providing images on what Indigenous space looks like — and how do you integrate that into your overall planning?”
The sessions take place in different rooms across campus, in order to encourage participation from a broad spectrum of the university community. Sessions will also allow substantial Q+A time.
“We want this to be an interactive opportunity for community,” emphasizes Young.
One session focuses the Métis people and another on the role of Indigenous women “not only in the treaty-making process but also in governance,” she says. “We have some great scholars and a couple elders and a student coming to speak, and I think that’s going to be a very interesting discussion.”
Partnering with Treaty Commissioner James Wilson (Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba) was natural, says Young, given Indigenous achievement’s previous partnerships with the Commission. “Commissioner Wilson and I have partnered on a few events now, and he seemed like a perfect partner to come on board for Indigenous Awareness Week.”
The key session, “What Are Treaties and Why Are Treaties Still Relevant?” opens the week and takes place in Senate chambers. A video of proceedings will be posted on the Indigenous Connect website.
The closing day will include opening ceremonies at Migizii Agamik and will feature a full day of dialogue with Elders and Knowledge Holders about relationship-building.
The closing day will include opening ceremonies at Migizii Agamik and will feature a full day of dialogue with Elders and Knowledge Holders about relationship-building. “Carl Stone [student advisor at the Aboriginal Student Centre], will be MCing that one. And what we’re hoping for is just allowing our Knowledge Holders and Elders to come together and have a conversation. Carl will start the conversation going with a couple of questions and then we’re hoping that our Elders will take over that conversation and talk about relationship-building and what it means to them. That’s not going to be a Q+A session. Our job as observers is to listen.”
“Taking Our Place” and the emphasis on Indigenous achievement and pathways
It’s a step towards embedding Indigenous perspectives into the university. “In November ,we released our [U of M] Strategic Plan called ‘Taking Our Place,’ and there’s a major emphasis on Indigenous achievement and pathways,” explains Young.
“Indigenous perspectives are interwoven throughout the entire plan, and one of our commitments is to increase our collective awareness around Indigenous issues. You know, I’ve hosted a number of events during the three years [I’ve been at the U of M] to foster that greater awareness. And I think that by putting it all in one week and allowing people to come and to listen and observe and to participate in dialogue is one way to start embedding Indigenous knowledge and traditions within the fabric of our university.”
Since she took the role of executive lead, Indigenous achievement three years ago, Young has focused on creating welcoming educational events and dialogues.
“I want to be able to bring people into the dialogue, and doing so in a way that is safe for them to do so,” she says. “Especially our non-Indigenous friends and allies, right? Because they are the ones who are going to help us make the change within the university — and in fact, I would say, within our society. So, we have to be able to give people a better understanding of who we are as Indigenous peoples, what our contributions are — why do we acknowledge traditional land, why are Treaties important to us, and why is it so important that we engage our Elders and Knowledge Holders in this process? So, a lot of the dialogue [during Indigenous Awareness Week] is going to be lead by Indigenous people,” she says.
“We have [history professor] Jean Friesen coming in, and she’s not Indigenous, but she’s a real ally to us,” continues Young. “She’s going to be talking about the role of the historian in this process. I think she’s going to provide us with some good suggestions for how to work together, and how to collaborate together and walk hand-in-hand. Each of us has a role; each of us has a responsibility.”
As Young notes, “Indigenous Awareness Week will start providing some of those tools; it’s one step forward. This is part of it, building a consciousness in the university. And this is also what Treaties are all about — building a relationship.”
Admission is free and open to the public.
— Mariianne Mays Wiebe
>> See stories on individual panels here.
Indigenous Awareness Week schedule of events
Monday, March 16, 2015 – What Are Treaties and Why Are Treaties Still Relevant?
By definition, Treaties are negotiated agreements that clearly spell out the rights, responsibilities and relationships of First Nations and non-First Nations. But in practice, they are far more complex and often lead to animosity and exhaustive court cases. We Are All Treaty People and it is essential that we understand their origins, as well as how they will play a role in shaping the future of Canada.
Location: Senate Chambers (Engineering Information and Technology Complex room 262)
Time: 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Elder Harry Bone
Jean Friesen, Associate Professor, Department of History
Ovide Mercredi, Special Advisor to U of M
Jamie Wilson, Treaty Commissioner of Manitoba
Tuesday, March 17, 2015 – The Role of Indigenous Women in Treaties and Traditional Governance
Indigenous women played a central role in determining the contents of the Treaties. What was this role? And how has it been interpreted over history? We’ll look at how Indigenous women are looking to the past and re-imagining themselves in governance roles today and in the future.
Location: Room 543-544 University Centre
Time: Noon – 2 p.m.
Aimée Craft, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law
Kiera Ladner, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Politics and Governance
Janice Bone, U of M graduate student, Department of Native Studies
Margaret Lavallee, Elder-in-residence, U of M
Wednesday, March 18, 2015 – Honouring Indigenous Identity Through Spaces and Names
Winnipeg, Manitoba Canada. The name of our home comes from Indigenous languages, but like thousands of places across Canada, these names have been Anglicized. This discussion will focus on how using Indigenous names can change communities, as well as the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. We’ll also look at the importance of creating space for Indigenous people.
Location: Centre Space, John A. Russell Building
Time: Noon – 2:00 p.m.
David Thomas, Architectural Designer, Ayshkum Engineering Inc.
Destiny Seymour, Interior Designer, Prairie Architects Inc.
Michael Robertson, Partner, Cibinel Architects
Elder Charlie Nelson
Thursday, March 19, 2015 – Métis Scrip and Treaties
It’s been two years since Canada’s top court ruled in favour of Métis in a massive land-claim case. But no decision was made on how to return the 566,000 hectares of land that Métis people lost 140 years ago. What will this mean for Manitoba’s booming Métis population? And how will Métis Scrip and Treaties come into play?
Location: 409 Tier Building
Time: Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Norman Meade, Elder-in-residence at U of M
Sharon Parenteau, General Manager, Louis Riel Institute at Manitoba Metis Federation
Friday, March 20, 2015 – Relationship Building – Land, Resources, and People: Elders’ and Knowledge Holders’ Perspectives
Join us at 8:00 a.m. to open the day with traditional pipe, water, and fire ceremonies* at Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge. This will be followed by two sessions in Marshall McLuhan (10 a.m. – Noon and 1:00 p.m. – 3 p.m.) when Elders and Knowledge Holders from across the country will share their perspectives on treaties, land, and resources.
*PROTOCOLS: All traditional protocol will be followed. For female guests please wear a long skirt. If anyone is unsure about traditional protocols, please contact the Aboriginal Student Centre at 204-474-8850. Please note that all cell phones must be turned off. Recording of the ceremonies in any way is not permitted (no photos, videos, audio recording or social media posts).
Thank you for respecting these protocols.
Location: Migizii Agamik and Marshall McLuhan Hall, University Centre
Time: 8:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Traditional teachings and reflections by:
Elder Harry Bone
Margaret Lavallee, Elder-in-residence at U of M
Mel Chartrand, Co-Founder/Co-Director/Lead Behavioural Health Specialist, Eyaa-Keen Healing Centre
Shirley Chartrand, Co-Founder/Co-Director/Lead Behavioural Health Specialist, Eyaa-Keen Healing Centre
Elder Levinia Brown
Norman Meade, Elder-in-residence at U of M
Elder Garry Robson
Elder Florence Paynter
Ken Young, Lawyer
Elder Charlie Nelson
Elder Dave Courchene Jr.
Saturday, March 21, 2015 – Spring Equinox Ceremony and Sharing Circle
Location: Migizii Agamik
Time: 10 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
PROTOCOLS: All traditional protocol will be followed. For female guests please wear a long skirt. If anyone is unsure about traditional protocols, please contact 204-474-8850. Please note that all cell phones must be turned off. Recording of the ceremonies in any way is not permitted (no photos, videos, audio recording or social media posts). Thank you for respecting these protocols.
10 a.m. Spring Equinox ceremony at Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge.
12:30 p.m. – Sharing circle & Elder reflections in student lounge at Migizii Agamik – Bald Eagle Lodge.