After thinking about my commitment some more, I decided to add a piece to it. It was born out of introductions prior to blanket exercises and circle talks. In particular, a circle talk I was apart of in Lebret a couple of weeks ago. When it was my turn to introduce myself, it felt like I was just rambling. It’s something I’ve never really had to do. Think about where I come from or who I truly am. As a white man, it’s a privilege I’ve always had. So, getting uncomfortable, having some difficult conversations and learning to introduce myself in a different way, is another aspect to my initial pledge of building relationships, growing my knowledge and giving back.
As for what I did this week in terms of engaged citizenship, I elaborated on what I need to do to improve my pledge, and then signed up to facilitate a couple more blanket exercises with UR STARS. Doing those blanket exercises will be a major component of my pledge. Each time I expect to learn something different, and meet new people.
This past weekend, like the rest of the ESST 317 class, I took part in a Treaty Education Conference. This was a two day event, and a great opportunity to learn more about Treaty education and get a sense of what other students are learning throughout their journey. In that sense, the two days reiterated that I’m in the right place right now, and taking the right journey. Some of the base knowledge that we talked about in class is stuff we’ve been discussing over the past two years, but I also don’t think I can hear to much of that stuff. I’m not even close to an expert, so any information is good information.
A couple SUNTEP students that I had met the previous week at the Treaty 4 gathering were also in my class at the conference, so it was great to see them again and attempt to grow alongside each other.
Listening to the Elders and speaking with them during breaks was by far the most powerful aspect of the weekend. Their experiences are shocking and their resilience is amazing. Hearing their stories also makes me reflect on my story, and my role in where our society is now. My identity and culture has never been questioned or taken away from me. The lens that the First Nations Elders see through has been the opposite lens that I’ve looked through for the majority of my life. I need to continue to search for what that means. The Treaty Conference and upcoming blanket exercises will help out with that.
Earlier in the week, I made a point to head out to the Regina Indian Industrial School cemetery. The site was granted heritage status earlier this summer, and I am actually just beginning to learn about it’s history. I felt compelled to look into what has to be considered a deep, dark secret that sits just on the out skirts of Regina. Roughly 35 children are buried here, and from what I could see, all but one in an unmarked grave. I had an uneasy feeling when I was there, similar to the feeling I had when I went to Lebret. It also angered me. Teddy bears and toys line the fences of the forgotten area, and a sign that read “We love our children. Brave. Respect. Remember”. I found that sign stuffed down a gopher hole, so re-hung it on the fence. The people that worked to restore that area and bring attention to it, should be commended. I also think more needs to be done. I bet the majority of people in Regina have no idea about it. I know very little about it to be honest, but that gives me an opportunity to look deeper, and see what I can find.