SNHS participates in Treaties Recognition Week across KPDSB
Jesse Bonello - Staff Writer
Sioux North High School (SNHS) joined schools across the Keewatin-Patricia District School Board (KPDSB), and Ontario, by participating in Treaties Recognition Week ceremonies, activities, and teachings from Nov. 4 to 8.
“Treaties Recognition Week is an opportunity for all Ontarians to gain a better understanding of treaties and treaty relationships, and how they have shaped the province. Treaties have played an integral part in the history and heritage of Ontario,” the KPDSB shared.
SNHS kicked off Treaties Recognition Week across the KPDSB by hosting the opening ceremonies, which featured drumming and guest speakers. Lac Seul First Nation Chief Derek Maud, KPDSB Trustee Eric Bortlis, Living Library Elder Robert Greene, and student representatives from SNHS and Sioux Mountain Public School spoke during the opening ceremonies.
“Learning the truth about the past will allow us to step forward towards reconciliation. Learning about treaties now will help us better our relationships between all peoples in Canada… We must acknowledge what has happened in the past and what we need to do to help with our future,” said Breanna Grenier, SNHS student, during the opening ceremonies.
A statement issued by Greg Rickford, Minister of Indigenous Affairs, on Nov. 4 stated, “This week Ontario is marking the fourth annual Treaties Recognition Week by supporting opportunities for people to learn more about treaties in Ontario, and their place in the province's history and heritage. Our government is working with Indigenous and education partners to deliver treaty awareness events in schools, universities and public libraries. Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers will deliver teachings and provide their personal perspectives to help deepen understandings of treaties.”
Following the opening ceremonies, SNHS hosted a variety of traditional activities for students.
“We had the grand opening and then a big feast. Following that, we had a sacred fire with an elder telling stories, we had another elder’s room, dreamcatcher making, a Whose Land workshop, Treaty negotiation simulations, and bannock making. We’ve had lots of kids out on the land for learning this week in trying to connect their learning to our local treaty area,” said Jennifer McMaster, SNHS Vice Principal.
“I feel like our staff are so engaged that they really took the week seriously and made sure that they were embedding lessons into their curriculum areas. I’m really happy with the dedication of the staff here at Sioux North,” she said.
Schools across the KPDSB joined SNHS in hosting traditional activities, ceremonies, and teachings throughout the week.
“There’s been a ton of activities… I know Dryden High School had a drumming ceremony to kick off the week. I’ve been seeing a lot of school’s feasts where they come in, share some local teachings, some local history, and share through an elder. Food seems to be a great way to bring people together, so there’s a lot of that happening,” said Sheena Pilipishen, communications, KPDSB.
“There’s been lots of classroom-based learning, but it’s so dependent on the age of the kids. The younger kids would be learning about what a treaty is where the older kids, when you get into the junior and intermediate, would be doing breakout activities in their history classes,” said Pilipishen.
Living Library presentations took place throughout the week in almost every KPDSB school. Through the Living Library, students gain treaty knowledge first-hand from elders.
“Across the whole system, Elder Robert Greene and Elder Don Jones from the Living Library have been traveling to different schools,” said McMaster.
“The Living Library is an organization that’s funded through the Ontario Ministry of Education, and it has elders from different treaty areas that have significant treaty knowledge. They pay for those elders to come in and provide their knowledge to our students,” she said.
“Since 2016 we’ve had the Living Library elders visiting, but we’ve definitely been increasing our publicity of the learning and trying to help get the importance out to the community of understanding that we are all treaty people and that we all take ownership in our treaty relationship,” she added.
On Nov. 6, Sol Mamakwa, Kiiwetinoong MPP and NDP critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, called on Ontario Premier Doug Ford to honour the sacred agreements between First Nations and the Ontario government.
“Across Ontario, people have gathered for treaty awareness events in schools, universities and public libraries. These events help the public have a better understanding of treaties, as we are all treaty people,” said Mamakwa.
“Treaties are more than contracts and real estate transactions. They are sacred agreements that set out for us how to maintain the relationship with newcomers then and now.
“The Crown has a role to play in this relationship too. First Nations cannot be the only ones holding up their side of the relationship.
“We come to you and ask for your help in getting clean water, safe housing and proper infrastructure. If Ontario honoured the treaties as they were intended, we wouldn’t need to ask.”
The KPDSB brought Treaties Recognition Week to an end during closing ceremonies at Evergreen Public School in Kenora on Nov. 8.
The ceremonies featured drumming along with guest speakers Ogichidaa (Grand Chief) Francis Kavanaugh of Grand Council Treaty#3, Nishnawbe Aski-Nation Deputy Grand Chief Derek Fox, KPDSB Trustee Dave Cornish, Minister of Energy, Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford, and Living Library Elder Don Jones.
“It wasn’t until I moved to the north and started working in Mishkeegogamang and then Pikangikum that I started to understand and appreciate the importance of Indigenous languages that have preceded this continent, Turtle Island. That’s too bad, frankly. So students and teachers, the extraordinary opportunity you have to give meaning and give effect to those treaties, to this relationship, at such a young age is a powerful and, in my view important, probably the most important thing that you can do,” said Greg Rickford during the closing ceremonies.
“I’ll say to the children and our teachers here, don’t judge our homeless people. Help them. Be compassionate to what may have been done to them or what kind of life they have lived. Don’t judge those who don’t look like you, act like you, or talk like you. Be friends with them because that’s what that treaty relationship is all about,” said Derek Fox during the closing ceremonies.
Videos of both the opening and closing ceremonies are accessible on the KPDSB’s YouTube channel, Keewatin-Patricia District School Board.