Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Treaty Drive

My friend Sheena writes a blog called Treaty Walks, where she talks about treaties and social justice.  Back in late January, she set out a challenge, to walk somewhere in our community and write about what they have learned.  See her original post here.  I've been thinking about this ever since I read that posting, and here's my response.

Sheena, this is a treaty drive (because it's close to -30 out and I'm a wimp, sorry).  Every day I drive this route to pick up my son from his car pool to Moose Jaw where he goes to school.  I drive down Lewvan to Dewdney, turn right and drive out of town until I get to the corner of Pinky Road and Dewdney Avenue.  There's a little gas station there where I sit and wait for Bram to be dropped off.  When he gets there, I turn around and drive back.  The entire trip is less than 10 km, and I do it every school day.  No big deal.

However, when we're thinking about treaty relationships and history, it changes my perspective entirely.  First of all, I drive past the RCMP training depot.  It has been here over 100 years.  When the Royal Northwest Mounted Police were first established, this was headquarters.  It was also here that Louis Riel was held for his trial and after the trial until his hanging.  I imagine that when it was first set up here, it was well out of town; it's still on the edge of town.  However there's been a long history between the RCMP and treaties.  They were there for the signing of all the treaties.  The RCMP were originally set up because of troubles between the first nations, settlers and whisky traders.  It's interesting to think that I drive past such a historical site every day.

Then I drive past what looks like an empty field.  Right now, the snow drifts are so high that I can't actually see the field, but it's essentially just a barren field.  However, at one time this was the location of an Indian Industrial School (a residential school), and there is still a grave yard there (unmarked - you can't see any of it).  The news story talking about it is here.  Again, a truly historical spot that I knew nothing about until I read the news story.

Finally, the gas station where I sit and wait for Bram to arrive, is a native-run business, on treaty land.  It's like an urban reserve, only it's not very urban; situated in the middle of a field, at an intersection, with nothing else near it.  The people who work there are very friendly.  It's also a full-service station (which is a real bonus when it's -30 out).  However, this is a also sign of a hopeful future.  People drive out from Regina all the time to purchase their gas here, or to be honest, to purchase their smokes there, as they're not paying taxes.  It's a sign of growth, of employment, of what we want to see as a result of treaties.

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