- What is the purpose of teaching Treaty Ed (specifically) or First Nations, Metis, and Inuit (FNMI) Content and Perspectives (generally) where there are few or no First Nations, Metis, Inuit peoples?
- What does it mean for your understanding of curriculum that “We are all treaty people”?
This first question has a basic answer to me: to teach the historical background of where we are today and the reasoning behind how it happened. This means that every person in Canada – whether he/she was born in here or is an immigrant – has been impacted by colonialism in one way or another. Treaty education is the story of how this country came to be, but it also indicates that there were many more stories here on this very land long before that. The act of not including treaty education is to succumb to the fable that Canada was a vast, open wilderness which brave European explorers discovered and tamed. It is innocent appearing, yet harmful views such as these which support the idea of Canadians not having a culture. As Dwayne Donald explains, this perspective puts Canada in the position of being without diversity, and any other cultural groups as being ‘foreign’ or different. He states that Canadians “perceive themselves as without culture” and feel guilty (Donald, 2011). These attitudes show how dominant beliefs in society become accepted as the norm, and push everything else aside as “other”. This proves the exact need for treaty education, which is to present multiple ways of viewing history, culture, and belief systems; shifting ideas of “the way” to “a way”.
To me, it is important to understand that “we are all treaty people”, because it displays how I and everyone else have become to the place that we are in today. Being a treaty person means recognizing that this agreement took place over the land we now call as Canada, and that it changed the course of everyone’s lives involved. For First Nations, Metis, and Inuit peoples, this title involves reclaiming the promises that were made by their ancestors. It points out that these agreements were not meant to be temporary, but rather to last ‘as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the river flows’. Continuing to support the treaty also involves advocating for amendments, in order to update certain conditions on promises that were made and broken. The age of the treaty, or the original intentions behind forming them are not excuses for leaving them in the past. Instead, they must continue to be held as valid arrangements and treated with high respect and importance.
I might not be a White person, but I am a settler in Canada. And as a settler, being a treaty person means realizing the privilege that has been received through treaty promises made between the two groups – Indigenous peoples and the settlers. The history around treaty formation is violent and white supremacist, full of threats and oppression directed towards Indigenous peoples who were the First Peoples of this very land. Representing as a treaty person recognizes the purpose of these important contracts, but also admits that land was stolen from Indigenous peoples in order for the settlers’ benefit. Going deeper into this claim, the treaties involve the genocide of the First Peoples, which was transmitted through education, health care, and political actions of the settlers. Overall, this statement that “we are all treaty people” confirms the past and present outcomes of colonialism in Canada, as well as ignites the stride to changing the future.
Donald, D. (2011). On What Terms Can We Speak?. (Video). Available online: https://vimeo.com/15264558