Recognizing Origin Stories – ECCU 400

Entering into ECCU 400, a course at the University of Regina that is centred on teaching pre-service teachers more about treaties and how to meaningfully incorporate Treaty Education into classrooms at the high school and elementary school level, I was apprehensive to learn more about treaties but I was excited to learn how I can incorporate meaningful Treaty Education into my future classroom.

As part of the ECCU 400 course requirements, we are tasked to reflect weekly on what we are learning and what we have been assigned to read each week. The first few weeks of the winter semester have been quite hectic for me as I have been trying to juggle school assignments, work, and a social life. Unfortunately due to commitments outside of school and focusing on other classes for the beginning of the winter semester, I have not been blogging weekly for ECCU 400. Now that it is February break, I finally have the chance to give ECCU 400 the time that it deserves.

The theme for the first few weeks of ECCU 400 was miskâsowin [mis-SKAA-soo-win], which is a Cree term meaning finding one’s sense of origin & belonging; finding ‘one’s self’ or finding ‘one’s center’. The readings and the class discussion focused on appropriate names to use for Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous Canadians. When I first heard the term miskâsowin, I had difficulty relating it to myself. I am not a very spiritual person, but I can relate to wanting to the idea of finding myself and where I belong in the world. As a young adult, I am just beginning to find myself and define myself as my own person; not someone that everyone else wants me to be.

When I first begin to think about who I am as a person, I think about the history of my grandparents and my ancestry. I know that my ancestors are white settlers that came to Canada for various reasons, including hoping to own and farm land in Canada, wanting a better life for future generations, and avoiding persecution. Regardless of the reasoning, all of my ancestors came from European countries and thus, I define myself as a white settler.

A photo from my Grandparent’s farm.

On my mom’s side of the family, both of my grandparents’ ancestors came to Canada from an area near France and Belgium border in the early 1900s. My grandfather’s family settled near Wauchope, Saskatchewan, which is a small rural town in south east Saskatchewan. My grandmother’s family settled near my grandfather’s family, but closer to the French town Belgard, Saskatchewan. Both families came to Canada in hopes of owning their own farm land and to create a better life for their future generations.

On my dad’s side of the family, my grandfather’s family fled to Canada from Russia and my grandmother’s family came to Canada from England. My grandfather’s parents were Doukhobors, which is a pacifist religion, and they came to Canada to escape persecution in Russia. My dad tells me that his grandparents were given land near Canora, Saskatchewan by the Queen of England to farm to save them, along with other Doukhobor families, from persecution. My grandmother’s family settled in Newfoundland, Canada. My grandmother was born and raised in Newfoundland prior to it becoming a province of Canada and it has always been a joke in my family to ask my grandmother what life was like prior to Confederation. Similar to my mom’s side of the family, it is likely that my grandmother’s family came to Canada for farming opportunities and for a better life for future generations.

Whenever my family discusses our ancestors or family history, we never discuss treaties or how we have benefited from treaties and the land that Indigenous people lived on for thousands of years prior to my ancestors coming to Canada. My grandparents on my mom’s side of my family live on Treaty 2 land on a farm near Wauchope, Saskatchewan which has been in the family for over 100 years now. Despite my grandparents owning the land that they live and farm on, it is not land that was fairly given to them. Instead the land was deceitfully taken from the Indigenous people through unfair treaty negotiations.

Like my grandparents on my mom’s side of my family, my great grandparents on my father’s side of the family were also farmers and they were given land form the Queen of England to farm on to avoid persecution in Russia. This land that the Queen gave to them did not come without any cost as my great grandparents needed to farm the land, but more importantly this land was on Treaty 4 land which also was also obtained through misinformation and deception in treaty negotiations.

Newfoundland is where my late grandmother called home. While I knew the numbered treaties that cover most of Saskatchewan, I did not readily know about treaties in Newfoundland. While researching Indigenous peoples that lived in Newfoundland prior to European contact, I discovered that there are no numbered treaties between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Newfoundland. Newfoundland was one of the first entry points for many European explorers to enter into Canada. Because of this, the Indigenous people that lived on the land, which is now called Newfoundland, were some of the first Indigenous peoples to have contact with European people. Due to European contact and the diseases that were brought to Canada, an entire Indigenous group that was native to Newfoundland, the Beothuk, went extinct. Diseases along with the persecution of Indigenous people in the eastern part of Canada is likely the reason why there are no numbered treaties in Newfoundland.

Knowing my family’s history and where they came from helps me define myself. My ancestors are white settlers, and thus I am a white settler. Along with my family’s history, I also define myself in regards to my economic status and the privilege that comes with it. Both of my parents work full time and are still married and because of this I am privileged to be part of the upper middle class economic status. I also come from a family that values education and both of my parents completed post-secondary education in Moose Jaw at SIAST. Because of my raising, my ancestry, and my current life status, I define myself as a privileged, white, middle-class, educated female living on Treaty 4 land. I know that these privileges put me at a higher social status without me doing anything.

Writing this blog really gave me the chance to think more about myself and my origin or miskâsowin. I have come to realize that I do not know as much as I initially thought about treaties or their effect on my life and the lives of those around me. I now know that I originate from ancestors who are white, settlers that came to Canada on the promise that they would be given land that was taken from the Indigenous people that lived on the land for hundreds of years prior to European contact. As I go forward with my journey through ECCU 400, I would like to learn more about treaties and the injustice that the Indigenous people of Canada faced throughout European contact and still face today. As I learn more I will continue to start discussions with my family and loved ones to encourage them to see a different side of the story besides the typical conservative, white settler view that I often hear. I would like to inform my loved ones on the information that I am learning in ECCU 400 and through my own discoveries while writing these blogs.

I know this blog was fairly long. I hope in the future that my blogs become a bit more concise, but if you know me, you know I am a talker so I cannot make any promises. Thank you for taking the time to read my blog post.

 

Ashley

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