A few years ago, I noticed a clever back cover on Briarpatch magazine. It showed a First Nations warrior with a caption, “Where’s your treaty card, Pilgrim?” It was at once funny and arresting. Where, indeed, was my treaty card? Since the government doesn’t issue treaty cards to non-Natives, I figured I should make my own. I knew my treaty area and generally what that 1877 agreement says. I could start there.
Later, my husband and I were driving across this country we love. Picture us on the TransCanada, north of sparkling Lake Superior, entering the Manitoba lakes district, driving into the golden prairies. As we drove, we brainstormed that treaty card idea. Could it open up a small window of new communication between Aboriginal peoples and settler peoples? What if Canadians read more Aboriginal authors, learned about Treaty and Settlements, tuned into the annual Indspire Awards?
The Bearer of this card has the right to: 1. Listen to Aboriginal music via the Internet, radio, CDs and concerts; 2. Visit an Aboriginal Friendship Centre; 3. Attend a powwow; 4. Read fiction, nonfiction and poetry by First Nations, Métis and Inuit writers….
This year, I celebrated National Aboriginal Day by offering the treaty card and our brainstormed list of rights that go with it. You can likely add to the list.
I know that we don’t all live in a treaty settlement area, but I hope that everyone can enjoy the list. If you carry a real treaty card, you might want to pass this list on to a non-treaty friend.
Simply print, clip and fold the card in half for your wallet. It can ride around in there as a quiet reminder of where we live; the list, of course, can go where all good lists go: on your fridge. Enjoy!
The Bearer of this card has the right to:
1. Listen to Aboriginal music via the Internet, radio, CDs and concerts.
2. Visit an Aboriginal Friendship Centre.
3. Attend a powwow.
4. Read fiction, nonfiction and poetry by First Nations, Métis and Inuit writers.
5. Ask your child’s teacher to invite an elder into the classroom.
6. Ask your local library to invite a Métis, First Nations or Inuit author to give a reading.
7. Ask your local church what they are doing to live out the apologies regarding residential schools.
8. Learn about how Aboriginal governments work.
9. Ask any church that ran federal government residential schools to display their official apology.
10. Subscribe to Aboriginal newspapers and magazines.
11. Attend open lectures in the Native studies department of your local college or university.
12. Take time to learn about the Idle No More movement and accept invitations to participate.
13. Ask your Board of Education, MPP or MLA to find out how the history of Canada is taught with respect to First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples, and how more recent events are covered.
14. Discover how Aboriginal peoples have contributed/contribute to the common good of Canada.
15. Visit the Canoe Museum & Chiefswood National Historic site in Ontario, Batoche in Saskatchewan and other public places to learn the history of this land.
16. Learn about the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
17. Watch the annual Indspire Awards (formerly Aboriginal Achievement Awards) on television.
18. Celebrate National Aboriginal Day on June 21.
19. Commemorate June 11, the National Day of Healing and Reconciliation.
20. Ask your MP what the Canadian government is doing to follow up the apology of 2008.
21. Learn about churches seeking reconciliation, for example “Living in Right Relations” in The United Church of Canada.
Carolyn Pogue writes a biweekly column for the United Church Observer. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit her website.