Acknowledging the Land_Relations - O34ME Annual General Meeting
Good afternoon, Everyone.
With humility and gratitude for the experiences that First Peoples across Canada have been sharing and continue to share, I’d like to begin today’s meeting by encouraging each of us to acknowledge the importance of relationship-building between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous peoples such that our ways of knowing, being, and doing can, in the words of Wiseman et al (2017), “circulate together.”
When we each hear the word, relation, we might have different ways of defining this term. This is natural, of course, given our background and experiences. More often than not, our minds will likely trail off to thinking about a close friend, an auntie, a grandparent, or an elder--someone who has left an indelible mark on our life and continues to be a source of inspiration.
When we observe these interactions and listen to the stories told of good times shared, we can start to see how a primary driver for memory-making is how we are made to feel and how we feel emotionally. Subsequent to this, any good decision made and that is connected to our relations are rooted in our feelings…in our emotions. To act poorly or indecisively, or in good ways, can be attributed to the quality of our relationships and how we are feeling.
Relationships are transformational. Typically, when we examine our interactions with First Peoples--both past and present--we begin to see that our interactions have not been transformational. They’re not relational, as the driver of our decision-making has been one of transaction. I’ll return to say more about this in a moment…
* * *
Today, I am privileged to be co-facilitating our AGM virtually from the small rural village of Chesterville in the Township of North Dundas, and through this village flows the South Nation River. For as much enjoyment the river provides, I am only able to do so because of the treaty agreement between the Indigenous peoples of this land and the Crown. This Treaty region is commonly known as “Crawford’s Purchases” of 1783, which “...were designed to
provide land to Loyalists who fought on behalf of the British during the American
Revolution, including Indigenous allies and United Empire Loyalists” (ontario.ca).
* * *
Now, let’s see how we might get to interpreting our own positionality through the lenses of transformation and transaction.
You’ll notice that I refer to this region as Treaty land. What I have come to learn, more recently, is that the Purchase is not a treaty--neither in a traditional sense or by modern-day terms. You see, the written agreements that were apparently made between the First Peoples of this part of Ontario and the Crown have not survived. At best, we have the accounts provided by those in attendance at the time. There are only two communications to the Canadian Government made by two of its non-Indigenous negotiators (Canadian Encyclopedia, 2021a).
Whether we’re discussing matters of agreements from the past or today, a formally-negotiated and -documented agreement between Indigenous peoples and the government ensures that Indigenous rights are protected--rights such as self-governance and access to ancestral lands, as well as use of the land’s resources for a variety of purposes. Well-negotiated, documented, and exercised treaties also declare the terms of the agreement where land has been surrendered--either payment, goods, and/or gifts are provided on a one-time basis or in an ongoing manner (Canadian Encyclopedia, 2021b).
If we delve more into the Upper Canada Treaties, commonly known as the Upper Canada Land Surrenders, we can read that the lands were surrendered in return for clothing for all families, guns for those who did not have one (including powder and ball for winter hunting), 12 laced hats, and red cloth sufficient for 12 coats (I have not yet determined the significance of 12 in the context of the agreement). We can also read that the family members of one of the chiefs, from the southwestern region of the lands surrendered, were clothed annually and that this practice continued beyond the chief’s death. To document the agreement, it was also reported that the Mississaugas were given wampum belts (Surtees, 1984).
The expression--to be a fly on the wall--I believe, applies here. Throughout the duration of the agreement-making process, I am wondering:
How might this information help us with moving forward?
Allow me to be clear. I am not critiquing and/or judging the actions of those who came before. I cannot attest to what relations may have existed between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples at the time. I am trying to understand truth(s) that I might become a better ally for “circulating together” today and in the future. I both want and would like to see how we move from transaction to transformation.
* * *
For those who have joined us online today and/or will access this recording later, I have a declaration to share with you all. I know that many of the privileges--benefits and successes--I have experienced are, in part, borne out of oppression of Canada’s First Peoples and suppression of their ideas and contributions.
As a settler-colonizer--one, who has benefited greatly from living on Turtle Island--I know I have much work to do to decolonize my own approach to the ways in which I live, teach and learn, and to share this with my colleagues. Much of this work has to be rooted in listening, in feeling, in honoring the land and its people, and co-creating welcoming and safe spaces for learning, with our Indigenous partners.
I recognize that the lands in this region of the Treaty are those of the Algonquin (unceded at Ottawa), the Anishinabewaki, the Haudensonee, the Mississauga, the Mohawk, and the Wendake-Nionwentsïo (nee-yon-wan-gee-oh). It is my responsibility to understand and live up to this Treaty and to see myself as a Treaty person.
Please take these next few moments to acknowledge the land you’re on, its people and your own connections to the land.
<Pause to Reflect>
As we move into the next part of our agenda, let’s give thanks for the examples of Indigenous stewardship--that is, for the land and relationships within and across peoples--that we have this opportunity to learn and lead alongside one another today for the good of our membership.
Niá:wen (Nee-aw-wah, Mohawk), Miigwech (Ojibwe), Nakurmiik (Na-koor-meek, Inuktitut), Thank you.
Crawford purchase. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2021a, January 16). Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/crawford-purchase
Map of Ontario treaties and reserves. ontario.ca. (n.d.). Retrieved March 22, 2022, from https://www.ontario.ca/page/map-ontario-treaties-and-reserves#treaties
Surtees, R. J. (1984, April 10). Indian Land Surrenders in Ontario 1763-1867. Government of Canada Publications. Retrieved May 7, 2022, from https://publications.gc.ca/site/archivee-archived.html?url=https://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2017/aanc-inac/R5-350-1983-eng.pdf
Upper Canada Land Surrenders. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (2021b, October 12). Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/upper-canada-land-surrenders
Wiseman, D., Glanfield, F., & Lunney Borden, L. (2017, September 11). How we are coming to know: Report. Show Me Your Math. Retrieved May 6, 2022, from https://showmeyourmath.ca/comingtoknow/report/