We Are All Treaty People

Treaty 6 Gathering at Stoney Knoll

  • Published - 23/08/2016
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  • Posted By - OTC
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It was a celebration on Stoney Knoll to commemorate the 140th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 6 on Aug. 23.

“Today is a big day for us,” said Neil Sasakamoose, the executive director of the Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs and the MC for the day.

“What’s been going on in the province this summer, it’s good to meet with non-Native people right now,” he said, talking about the racism that has bubbled to the surface following the shooting of a man from the Red Pheasant First Nation on a farm near Biggar.

“It’s good to remind each other why we coexist, it’s special to coexist.”

The day is also about teaching the next generation about the Treaties of Saskatchewan.

“One of the key things about remembering an event and a time in history are the concrete symbols that we create to carry that story and that message. For the numbered treaties, the medal has been a key piece of the story,” said Harry Lafond, executive director of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner.

To honour remembering and commemorating Treaty 6 the Treaty Office gave each person at the event a small replica of the Treaty 6 medal.

“Put it some place visible in your home to remind you of your own responsibility as a Treaty 6 person. Put it some place where your grandchildren will come in and say, ‘what’s that about,’ and you will be able to tell them that they are Treaty 6 people,” Lafond said.

“That’s what these medals are for, they are reminders. They are a visible way to carry the story forward.”

Using Stoney Knoll, a hill in the middle of the prairie near the community of Laird, as the meeting place for the gathering was intentional. The land belonged to the Young Chippewayan First Nation, but they were removed in the late 1800s and the area was settled by Mennonite and Lutheran farmers.

Starting in the 1970s there has been the beginning of an understanding of what happened. Leonard Doell, coordinator of the Indigenous Neighbour’s Program for the Mennonite Central Committee, spoke during the ceremony of the descendants of Young Chippewayan band members coming and talking about their connection to the land.

He said this became an impetus to learn more and the “first step on the journey of three peoples working together for justice.”

It was 10 years ago that then Stoney Knoll Chief Ben Weenie called Doell to see if the Young Chippewayan band members could commemorate the 130 anniversary of the Treaty 6 signing alongside the Lutheran and Mennonite settlers on the land.

“By taking this risk and extending the olive branch through kindness, Chief Weenie began a journey of reconciliation, hoping that there would be receptive people to walk alongside on uncharted ground,” Doell said.

That spirit of the multi-party gathering continues to be honoured to this day.