Every year, the people of Treaty 4 Territory gather in Fort Qu’Appelle to honor the signing of treaty.
On Wednesday, over 2,000 students, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, were given the opportunity to learn what treaty is and how to be a treaty person.
“It’s cool try things the First Nations people did,” said Emerson, a Grade 5 student. “You don’t have to be [Indigenous] to learn about these things.”
“We’re doing a unit about Indigenous culture at school, so everything we can learn is a good thing,” said Chyler, a Grade 6 student.
Sheena Koops, Chair for the student activities at the gathering, said it is a place for all people to honor and renew their relationship to treaty.
“Our youth are our future,” she said. “This is a part of our renewal. It is our responsibility to help the youth to understand this 148-year-old relationship that has yet to be fully honored and fully implemented.”
Students learned about a wide range of topics, from the history of treaties to traditional values and practices. Some children CTV News talked to said they would take the teachings back home.
“It’s a really fun experience,” said Joshua, a Grade 9 student. “My parents didn’t have this when they were in school or anything. So just learning the history is something amazing.”
“Our culture has been so colonialized and hidden away,” said Eve, a Grade 6 student.
Another student said the events took her back to memories of her Kokum.
“When I was younger, [she] would dance and sing songs for me,” said Phoenix. “Watching it again brought back core memories.”
Powwow dancer Lisa Ewack was taught the powwow way of life by her grandfather. She now carries on those teachings, passing them along to the next generation.
“It’s very important to pass on this way of life, tradition and culture,” she said. “Our children need to know this is a positive, healthy lifestyle.”
“Lots of our cultural knowledge was lost through residential schools,” said Celeste Tootoosis, an educator. “[Our people’s] identity was not being passed on to [our children]. So our regalia and our dancing is so important to their identity and building them up to be strong and resilient.”
Koops said all people can participate in treaty by going to powwows or learning from Elders.
“We are so afraid of making mistakes or saying the wrong thing,” she said. “Get over it. The treaty relationship is more important. Go forth and be awkward. People will be good to your efforts but it is your responsibility.”
The gathering, which has events planned through the end of the weekend, will be capped off by a traditional powwow on Sunday. There is an open invite to treaty people of all ages and backgrounds.