What does it mean to be treaty people? Who are treaty people? Questions like this and more were the focal point of an annual event exploring treaty relations and relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people called the We Are All Treaty People Celebration.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s celebration took to the airwaves on Sunday, September 27, in a partnership with the University of Manitoba radio station UMFM 101.5 in Winnipeg. The event was organized in partnership with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Manitoba, Winnipeg Quakers, TRC Action Committee United Church, Diocese of Rupert’s Land (Anglican) and in partnership with the Treaty of Relations Commission of Manitoba.
The celebration featured special performances from Henry Neufeld, Ray “Co-Co” Stevenson, the Walking Wolf Dancers & Singers and more. Throughout the event, MC Michael Redhead Champagne and Treaty Commissioner Loretta Ross invited listeners to reimagine treaty from a land benefit perspective.
Recordings of the interviews and videos of the performances can be found at the bottom of this page.
MCC photo/Kerry Saner-Harvey
This perspective highlights the important role non-Indigenous people play as treaty members, Champagne explained. “If you benefit from the land, that doesn’t just come from nowhere, that comes from treaty.”
Ross reminded listeners of the longevity of treaties with this well-known promise, “For as long as the sun shines, the grass grows, and the water flows”, which has been invoked by both Indigenous people and settlers in the context of treaties.
The promise undergirds the ongoing importance of the treaty as coexistence. For too long, as Ross and Champagne discussed, systems have been built to strip Indigenous Peoples of their identity, family and pride. As the youth of today have been learning to find pride in their Indigenous heritage, non-Indigenous people must learn from the past how to be good treaty people.
“It’s about gratitude, letting go of my sense of entitlement as a white settler and humbly acknowledging I have the right to be here primarily because of the graciousness of the host peoples willing to accept my presence as a treaty partner."
“It’s about gratitude, letting go of my sense of entitlement as a white settler and humbly acknowledging I have the right to be here primarily because of the graciousness of the host peoples willing to accept my presence as a treaty partner,” said Kerry Saner-Harvey, MCC Manitoba’s Indigenous Neighbours coordinator, on the importance of treaty celebration.
Celebrating treaty is a recognition that all living on Treaty 1 are treaty partners. “I want to be a good guest and that means working towards right relationships,” Saner-Harvey conveyed while voicing the pain of broken promises, the violence of the Indian Act and residential schools.
“The reality is, it’s hard to imagine a good life when Indigenous people are still not treated right,” Champagne expressed. Education is power, and education about the treaties gives power to all to make a change, he added.
Through simply celebrating our collective role as treaty people, working towards a future of reconciliation is possible. A treaty which continues, said Ross invoking the treaty promise, “as long as the sun shines, grass grows and the water flows.”
For more information about MCC’s work building relationships between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people visit http://mccmb.ca/indigenous-neighbours.
MC Michael Redhead Champagne interviews Treaty Commissioner Loretta Ross
Henry Neufeld performs praise song
Watch Ray “Co-Co” Stevenson’s performance
Watch Sister Dorothy’s performance
Watch Double the Trouble’s performance
Watch the Walking Wolf Dancers & Singers perform
*This article has been updated to reflect that the quote attributed to being "first said by Alexander Morris" is a phrase that was invoked by both Settler and Indigenous sides in relation to Treaty 6.