• Jean Koning

We Are Treaty People | Jean Koning

Collective member Jean Koning, who has been walking with First Nations for almost fifty years, has allowed us to share a piece she wrote last year. You can find the original post on Jean's blog, Koning's Komments.

IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON: From "Walking in Solidarity" to "We are Treaty People"

Recently, the Pine Tree speakers at the Peterborough Library told us of the importance of “Mnoomin”, wild rice growing in the traditional waters of their homeland, known as the Mississauga Territory of the Ojibwe Nation. This is also the area that we think of as our home, Peterborough and the Kawarthas.

When someone asked, “what can we do to help you?” - I thought I heard Elder Doug Williams say that it was time for us to start figuring that out for ourselves. He said it much more diplomatically, but I think that was his challenge to us.

The background:

For generations past, most Canadians have lived contentedly in the country we call Canada with no thought of the price we have demanded of the First Peoples, as our governments, in our name, followed policies that tried to assimilate them into our society, committing horrendous acts named “genocidal” by the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC), and pushing them onto small parcels of land to eke out a meagre existence while we flourished through the resource development on their lands.

As the work of the TRC comes to an end, we have suddenly begun to realize that the relationship between the First Peoples and The Rest of us is badly out of kilter, and we are now beginning to wonder what we can to do to make changes.

How to make changes:

The first thing to understand is that changes have already been happening. The First Peoples, in particular, have been making tremendous changes; they have begun to reclaim their own languages, histories, traditions and spiritual teachings, and are taking charge of their own lives and their own territories. Locally, that is what the Anishinabe speakers were telling us about “wild rice”.

And they don’t really need our help to make that happen, because the mechanisms are already in place – have, in fact, always been in place from the time of first contact, when we began to come to this land and were received by the First Peoples who lived here and were prepared to share their homeland with us.

But we came with the belief that we were superior, and had the right to subjugate the First Peoples, which we did over several hundred years of colonization policies, with tragic results.

But we have not been able to conquer the First Peoples, as they are now showing us. In those intervening years, there were times when, as some of us began to understand the horror of the past, we tried to help, and friendships were established, and church teachings were accepted, but now we are entering a new era. The First Peoples are reclaiming their sovereign nationhood; however they understand that in their particular territory and within their own tribal affiliation.

So it’s time for us to recognize that, and to find new ways of working together with First Peoples, in a nation-to-nation relationship in accordance with the Two-Row Wampum teachingshttp://www.anishinabek.ca/treaty-research.asp

Back to the wild rice issue:

With regard to mnoomin, the chief players are, on one side of the Two-Row Wampum, the Williams Treaties First Nations:

Alderville First Nation

Beausoleil First Nation

Curve Lake First Nation

Georgina Island First Nnation

Hiawatha First Nation

Rama First Nation