I Am Not a Number – Analyzing a Children’s Story

9781927583944.jpgI Am Not a Number written by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer was published in September 2018. It is a children’s book that tells the true and personal story of Jenny’s grandmother’s experience at a Residential School in Ontario. When Irene Couchie Dupuis was eight years old, she and two of her brothers were taken to a Residential School and forced to leave everything they ever knew behind. When she first arrived, Irene was given the number 759 which is how she was referred to at the school and Irene was told to scrub the brown off of her skin which caused her to wonder why she was not accepted for who she was. The story highlights several other harsh expectations and dehumanizing requirements that Residential schools placed on the children in attendance along with various punishments that were frequently implemented. Ultimately, the children’s book outlines numerous effects that Residential schools had and continue to have on Indigenous Peoples. I Am Not a Number is a raw and powerful story and

“A moving glimpse into a not-very-long-past injustice.” – Kirkus Reviews

After reading the book just once, several questions come to mind that I believe educators could ask their students in reflection of the story to begin examining Residential Schools and their effects on Indigenous Peoples’ identities.

  1. How would you feel if you were stripped of your individual identity?
  2. How would you feel if aspects of who you are were seen as wrong and shameful?
  3. How do you think Irene’s experiences affect her and her family today?

I believe these questions or others that are similar in nature would help highlight the severity and reality of Residential Schools and inspire students to have the desire to learn more about the mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples in our country.

While researching the book, I found that the story has received an immense amount of praise and support from numerous other authors, reporters, and school representatives. Below I included a few quotes that stood out to me and emphasize the beauty of the book and the truth that it unveils.

“Residential and boarding school stories are hard to read, but they’re vitally important… books like I Am Not a Number should be taught in schools in Canada.” – Debbie Reese, American Indians in Children’s Literature

 

I Am Not a Number is perfect to get the conversation about residential schools started with your children. It opens the door for them to ask questions about the subject and the story is relatable in a way they can follow.” – Residential School Magazine

 

“To any one looking for a book to teach children about the history of residential schools I Am Not A Number is without hesitation a very powerful and historical teaching tool.” – Anishinabek News

 

This book is a moving look into an injustice that continues to have ramifications for First Nations, Métis and Inuit peoples.” – Canadian Children’s Book News

 

Few stories exist about the residential school system that are aimed at a younger age group, and this one is an absolute must for classrooms and libraries.” – Resource Links

In 2013, the most recent Treaty Education Outcomes and Indicators were released by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Education in response to Treaty Education becoming mandated in 2007. The document outline four key K-12 goals as the basis for building understanding and nurturing appreciation that are to be addressed in various subject areas and understood best when they come together as a whole. Despite all four goals being related, I believe I Am Not a Number connects best with the following three goals because the topic of identity is a major theme in the book that is expressed through a story from Canada’s past which ignores the spirit and intent of treaties.

  1. Treaty Relationships (TR): By the end of Grade 12, students will understand that Treaty relationships are based on a deep understanding of peoples’ identity which encompasses: languages, ceremonies, worldviews, and relationship to place and the land.
  2. Spirit and Intent of Treaties (SI): By the end of Grade 12, students will recognize that there is interconnectedness between
    thoughts and actions which is based on the implied and explicit intention of those actions. The spirit
    and intent of Treaties serve as guiding principles for all that we do, say, think, and feel.
  3. Historical Context (HC): By the end of Grade 12, students will acknowledge that the social, cultural, economic, and political conditions of the past played and continue to play a significant role in both the Treaty reality of the present and the reality they have yet to shape.

Following the Treaty Outcomes, Residential Schools are only specifically outlined in grade 8 where the outcome SI-8 states:  “Assess the impact Residential Schools have on First Nations communities.” There is no doubt that the book could be shared with a grade 8 class, however, I believe it could be used in numerous other classrooms. Below I outlined three cross-curricular examples of where I could see it fitting.

  1. In grades 6 to 9, to topics studied in English according to the Saskatchewan Curriculum are Personal and Philishophcial and Social, Cultural and Historical. Image result for identityWithin these units, I Am Not a Number could be read with the focus on identity and what makes people who they are or with the emphasis on the historic event that continues to have social and cultural impacts on our country today.
  2. A dynamic relations outcome from the grade 4 Social Studies curriculum requires students to “Analyze the implications of the Treaty relationship in Saskatchewan” in which this book could be used to begin the conversation concerning how treaty agreements were not upheld appropriately.
  3. One of the K-12 Mathematics strands is statistics and probability and after reading Image result for statistics clipartthis story, students could gather numerical data about Residential Schools and analyze it using mathematical reasoning and their statistical knowledge according to their particular grade level.

 

Image result for be the changeToday, all Residential Schools may be closed but their effects and similar identity issues continue across our country. Indigenous peoples of Canada are stereotyped and often mistreated due to their appearance and myths about our country’s past. It is critical for educators to address the corrupt goals of Residential Schools with their students and to acknowledge that as a country we still have work to do. I believe that reading stories such as I Am Not a Number, will ignite the fire in students to address our country’s past, commit to reconciliation, and be the change our communities need in order to begin living in harmony as the Treaties were put in place to allow for.

 

 

Shining a Light on Treaty Education

Treaty Education is not only mandatory in the Saskatchewan curriculum and thus, an obligation for educators to responsibly teach, but also a very important subject to address in order to move away from teaching colonialism and racism in the underlying curriculum and stride towards instilling true understandings about the history of our country among our students. Unfortunately, treaty-education makes many educators feel uncomfortable and challenges them to unlearn the societal narratives that they were raised with and change their perspectives concerning what it truly means to be a treaty person. Many Canadians lack understanding or are misinformed about Indigenous people in Canada which reiterates the importance of teaching Treaty-Education.

I believe, to begin teaching Treaty Education appropriately, as an educator, I must open myself up to accepting the discomfort that comes with recognizing who I am as a Treaty Person. I must embrace the discomfort of owning my privileges as a white settler and admitting that some of my views may be biased or stereotypical. It is often unsettling to question the ideas and beliefs that I grew up with but, it is vital that I begin to recognize the myths in society surrounding colonialism and actively work to debunk them and own the honest truth of our country.

Image result for we are all treaty people I believe that a strong starting point for teaching Treaty-Education in the classroom is developing the understanding that we are all Treaty people. Personally, this idea was only introduced to me in my first year of University and initially, it was confusing to hear because my mindset was that I was not a First Nations, Metis, or Inuit person and thus, I was not a treaty person. Today, I recognize the harm in that belief and can now comfortably acknowledge that I am a Treaty person because treaties were agreed upon between Indigenous people of Canada and European settlers from whom I descend, on the covenant “as long as the sun shines and the rivers flow” which implies that they will always exist. In fact, living in Canada, we are all treaty people. As Canadians, we all inherit the outcomes of treaties and experience the effects of them every day. The decisions of the past have created the future of today and we must acknowledge them and learn the truth about our country’s past which begins long before European settlement.  Reading Cynthia Chamber’s chapter titled We are all Treaty People with students may help instill this perspective in one’s classroom and initiate openness to learning about treaties and their continuous effects on our country.

With the understanding that we are all treaty people, it should become evident why no matter what race we belong to, Treaty-education is part of every Canadian’s identity and should be taught to all students. Many Indigenous students have knowledge about Treaty-education and indigenous people’s history of our land and as Claire suggests in her introduction video, Indigenous peoples of Canada “do not want more cultural programming … especially when these programs are aimed at them specifically.” What Indigenous students want is to be treated fairly, for the colour of their skin not be a barrier to their success, and for their classmates to know and understand the things that they know and understand about being Indigenous to Canada. Treaty-education goes far beyond teaching about our countries past because it demonstrates respect and admiration for the people who began on our land and have experienced detrimental effects due to white European settlement. It may be a valuable approach to allow Indigenous students in our classrooms to share their stories and perspectives to create a rich and real learning experience for all students.

Our society has become instilled with racism which is “pervasive, insidious, and deadly” as expressed by Claire in her introducing Treaty Education video. News stories such as the Colten Boushie case or cases of MMIW exemplify this idea and can be used in our classrooms to illustrate the truth about racism in our province. Recent examples concerning the effects of treaties that are still relevant today should help students understand the seriousness of Treaty Education and be open to the learning process. I hope to include such stories in my future lessons to help the concept of Treaty Education become real and present in the eyes and minds of my students rather than simply a topic of our past. It is important that Treaty Education is taught from a current perspective where the importance of continuing to work towards reconciliation is highlighted.

Image result for indigenous games high fiveAs a math major, I am often challenged to consider how Treaty Education could fit into the high school math courses that I will soon be teaching. This is a concept that I believe I will never have a concrete answer to but rather, I will continue to develop and implement new ideas. What I do know is that I don’t want to simply infuse or incorporate Indigenous ideas into math classes because as Dwayne Donald suggests in his article, these practices would continue to colonize Indigenous peoples as they would attempt to take Indigenous cultures and fit them into the Western European math that is currently taught in schools. As a math educator, it will be important for me to find ways to experience Indigenous practices and beliefs with my students without removing them from their tradition and swallowing them with European mathematical teachings. Below I included two examples of Teaching Treaty Education in math classrooms that I have found to be valuable. I look forward to continuing to grow and develop more ideas that will help me respectfully teach Treaty Education and mathematics consecutively.

  1. I had the opportunity to participate in a lesson where my class was posed with a task to determine the area of land that is set aside as Indigenous reserve land in Canada and then visually and numerically compare this to the landmass of Canada. To complete this task, my classmates and I were required to use various mathematical ideas, logical thinking, and problem-solving skills, and thus, we were doing math but never were these ideas highlighted. This allowed the focus to remain on Treaty education rather than the ideas being swallowed by mathematics. This activity powerfully illuminated the little amount of land that was left for Indigenous peoples to live according to treaty agreements. With creativity, this activity can be connected to mathematical ideas in all of the high school strands and thus, is a valuable task that I plan to steal and share with my future students.
  2. This is a Probability lesson plan that I developed with culturally responsive pedagogy in mind. I was inspired by the Indigenous Games For Children Resources published by High Five, Canada’s quality standard for children’s programs, when designing this lesson. I believe that including traditional Indigenous games and activities in our classrooms is one way that we can help our students reflect on the rich cultural heritage of Indigenous peoples across Canada and appropriately include Treaty Education in a variety of subject areas.

Image result for saskatchewan Treaty Outcomes

I also believe it is important for teachers to be familiar with Saskatchewan’s Treaty Outcomes and Indicators. It is vital that educators not only read through this document but continually reflect on it to deepen their understandings and challenge themselves to critically think about what they are saying and how they could look in practice. In 2007, the Saskatchewan government and ministry of education committed to making mandatory instruction of the history and content of Canadian Treaties in the K-12 curriculum. While they are presented separately, the goals for Treaty Education can only be understood when considered as parts of a whole and thus, the outcomes and indicators at each grade level are designed to engage learners on a journey of inquiry and discovery. When meaningfully and thoughtfully incorporated into subject areas, Treaty Education moves beyond an idea to become actualized and becomes a belief that benefits all learners. It is the teachers’ responsibility to know the Treaty Outcomes and Indicators and to creatively work together to respectfully implement them in our schools.

Image result for light shiningMy final advice to myself and all other educators in order to shine a line and illuminate Treaty Education is to keep talking. The more we discuss Treaty-education, the more natural it will become and the more willing people will be to continue the conversations. Residential schools may no longer exist but their mentality remains constant and in order to fix that, we need to be honest about our countries past and embed our curriculum with Treaty-education rather than colonialism and racism which continue to persist. By taking responsibility for Treaty-education, we are putting ourselves in a position that will permit reconciliation and a more optimal future where everyone matters and has a voice to be heard.

Acknowledging My Fears – Reflecting on Four Seasons of Reconciliation

Prior to studying education at the University of Regina, I never considered my white privileges or the fact that I am a racist due to the systemic racism that is embedded in the country I call home. I have come to the understanding that systematic racism in Canada is a result of the oppressive practices and policies directed at Indigenous peoples. It is important to remember that systemic racism does not include white people being discriminated against by non-white people or individual racist slurs because systemic racism is the effect of dominant institutions oppressing a marginalized group of people. In the past three years, I have made leaps towards defining myself as a treaty person and acknowledging my privileges due to systemic racism. I believe recognizing and owning these ideas is the first step towards reconciliation but I still fear that I am not prepared to act in a respectful manner that demonstrates my understanding that I am privileged and racist while taking the correct steps to move towards miyo-wîcêhtowin and good relations with all people.

I grew up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan where the Indigenous population is just under 30 percent of the city’s residents. Despite the grand presence of Indigenous peoples that I grew up surrounded by, my experiences engaging with indigenous peoples or ways of knowing were very slim. Unfortunately, my upbringing highlighted many of the negative stereotypes of Indigenous peoples and thus, I was raised in a culture that frowned upon indigenous peoples. As an individual, I am continually working to develop a better understanding of traditional Indigenous ways of knowing and to participate in community events alongside my treaty partners but I still fear that the beliefs and stereotypes that I grew up with have a detrimental influence on my beliefs and ability to open myself up to appropriately and respectfully engage with Indigenous peoples. I used to struggle with acknowledging that I am a racist and admitting that racist thoughts cross my mind. I am working on becoming comfortable with the discomfort that comes with being vulnerable because I think it is important that I am honest with myself and begin to question the thoughts associated with Indigenous peoples that frequently pop into my head. When I am walking down the street and see homeless Indigenous peoples the thought of drug addictions crosses my mind. When I was working in retail, I often caught myself watching Indigenous peoples for theft more than people belonging to other races. When my Indigenous classmates skip school, my mind wonders why they don’t care about or value their education. When I see Indigenous peoples at the casino or liquor store, I think about how they are wasting their child tax funds on gambling and alcohol. When I am planning activities with Indigenous peoples and they are slow to reply to my emails or phone calls, I think they are disrespectful or lazy. Why does my mind automatically think the worst? Why do I continue to group Indigenous peoples as all the same? Why do I still believe damaging and racist stereotypes? I don’t have the exact answers to all of these questions, but I do know that my childhood experiences and the people I grew up around definitely influence these thoughts. With that said, I still fear that these internal thoughts will prevent me from fully opening myself to engaging with Indigenous peoples and committing myself to reconciliation. I am confident that acknowledging these thoughts and vulnerably admitting that they are concerning is a vital step but I am still afraid that I will never fully grow out of them.

Another fear that I have that connects more directly to treaties in the classroom is related to cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation refers to a particular power dynamic in which members of a dominant culture take elements from a culture of people who have been systematically oppressed by that dominant group. It is problematic because often something significant to the marginalized culture is taken out of context and used in ways that contradict the traditional purposes. My journey through my education degree thus far has permitted me to engage in conversations concerning the importance of incorporating Indigenous culture and traditional ways of knowing into my teaching. I believe that it is crucial to include treaty education in all subject domains but I am worried that I do not know how to do it in a respectful manner that appropriately honours Indigenous peoples. As a mathematics major, I have had a lot of experience discussing inappropriate ideas of incorporating Indigenous culture into mathematics lessons. For example, a teacher may have students determine the circumference of the bottom of a tipi or the angles that the poles meet at but this is a superficial and disappointing way to incorporate Indigenous culture into the math classroom. During the traditional assembly of tipis, these calculated values would never be relevant and Indigenous people would not have used Western European formulas or number systems to calculate measurements. Thus, by using a tipi to perform calculations, one would be taking a traditional symbol and way of life out of Indigenous culture and ignoring the traditional context and practices that make tipis valuable and significant to Indigenous peoples. I am confident that I will always have the right intentions when incorporating Indigenous culture into my classroom but this does not guarantee that the outcome will always be right. I want to avoid cultural appropriation in my classroom but I fear that when I try to incorporate Indigenous culture into my classroom it may appear superficial or disrespectful to the traditional practices of Indigenous Peoples. My goal is not to be heroic or a “white saviour” by including Indigenous practices into my classroom but I am afraid that this could be how it will appear.

Participating in the Four Seasons of Reconciliation activity provided me with a wealth of knowledge and once again opened my eyes up to the importance of critically thinking about how my attitudes and beliefs influence my ability to commit to reconciliation processes. I have learned that it is vital for me to consider not only my detrimental thoughts but the reasons why they come into my mind. I must analyze not only my intentions when incorporating Indigenous ways of knowing into my future classrooms but also the approach, processes, and outcomes of what I am teaching. As a teacher, I must encourage my students and provide them with opportunities to look critically at the structures in the world around them and to consider how systemic racism affects both the dominant and marginalized groups of people. I know that I will have to think critically about the ways that I present Indigenous issues and Treaty Education so that I am not just asking students to participate in activities that will make them and myself feel good by doing them. I have come to the realization the reconciliation is not meant to feel good. When done appropriately actions that align with reconciliation should not be heartwarming and comfortable. Reconciliation is not meant to feel good. In an address by Pam Palmater called Truth and Reconciliation in Canada: If It Feels Good, It’s Not Reconciliation, she discusses how reconciliation is not a subject that can be discussed in our classrooms in which we can walk away from feeling like all is right in the world. With this understanding, I believe that it is okay for me to have fears concerning engaging with Indigenous culture and approaching Treaty Education and reconciliation is my classroom as long as I remain honest, vulnerable, and willing to accept the discomfort associated with reconciliation.

Kihci-asotamâtowin – Sacred Promises to One Another

To this date when I hear the word covenant the first thing that comes to my mind are biblical covenants due to the fact that I was baptized as a baby and raised in a catholic household. For example, in the old testament, God made agreements with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses that were all communicated through a sign and a promise such as the Passover which symbolized the promise of land and prosperity in exchange for obedience. My experiences in the catholic school system and at home have led me to believe that covenants are sacred and everlasting promises, often represented by a symbol and characterized by two or more parties agreeing to terms for eternity. This understanding allows me to believe that covenants do not have to be religious in nature but that it is essential for covenants to be taken seriously and acted on with respect and dignity. As I continue to open myself up to ideas of miyo-wîcêhtowin and developing good relations with indigenous peoples, my understandings of treaties have evolved and I believe that treaties align with the characteristics of covenants. Treaties are sacred promises that were agreed upon by Indigenous peoples and Europeans in the presence of the creator and thus, they are for eternity or as treaty commissioner Alexander Morris puts it, they are to be acted upon “as long as the grass grows, the sun shines, [and] the river flows.” With this understanding of treaties, it is easy to recognize that treaties are covenants between three parties which are the Crown, the Indigenous Peoples, and the creator and thus, they are permanent and unchangeable.

Treaty MedalsIn the chapter, Kihci-asotamâtowin – Sacred Promises to One Another, The Treaty Sovereigns’ Sacred Undertakings, of the book, Treaty Elders of Saskatchewan, the symbolism of treaties is discussed. During the signing of a Treaty, a sacred pipe was present and smoked. For Indigenous peoples, the smoking of the pipe signified two important conditions for the participants. The first one being that they were in agreement and pledging a solemn covenant and the second being a promise to speak the ultimate truth. As Elder Kay Thompson explains, “we [Indigenous peoples] are all part of the creator. This relationship is sacred and is respected through the pipe”, which demonstrates that by smoking the pipe, the treaties were signed in the presence of the creator. The chapter also explains how the signing of treaties signified a commitment between the parties to keep a relationship of peace which for the First Nations people meant that the treaty relations would be nurtured in good, healthy, happy and respectful relationships. They believed that by forming the treaty covenants, the Queen would become their mother and thus, Indigenous Peoples and white settlers would be brothers and sisters who would live in harmony together. With this in mind, it is important to consider my responsibilities to these covenants as a treaty person.

As a white settler, I am a treaty person and as I continue to strive for miskâsowin and an understanding of my identity, I am reminded that I am responsible for living out the promises of treaties. Unfortunately, the sacred promises that were made many years ago have not been appropriately respected as our history shows that Indigenous peoples were historically deterred from living their way of life. Despite these unlawful actions, I still believe that treaties are covenants and thus, the agreements that were made are forever. Because of this belief, it is important that I continue to embrace miyo-wîcêhtowin and strive to build harmonious and respected relationships with Indigenous peoples. Being a treaty person is part of my identity, and in order to be true to myself, I must commit myself to act with respect towards the treaty agreements and appropriately honour my treaty partners.

Learning about treaties as sacred promises also challenges me to consider how I can help convey these ideas in my future classrooms. Beyond communicating when and why treaties were formed, it is vital that students explore the promises that were made and critically think about what they must do in order to live out those promises. I believe that students may find value in participating in a pipe ceremony because Elders provide a significant explanation of the symbolism of the pipe and the experience may help students develop a deeper understanding as to why treaties are sacred covenants. Many of my future students will be treaty people and thus, it is critical that I act as the lead learner in the classroom and facilitate opportunities for students to learn about what it truly means to be a treaty person and what they are responsible for in order to respectfully live out the promises that were made by our ancestors.

Examining Myself as a Treaty Partner

I grew up in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan which resides on Treaty 6 territory. Treaty 6 was negotiated in 1876 and spans parts of the current day provinces Alberta, and Saskatchewan. In Saskatchewan alone, there are 29 First Nations Communities on Treaty 6 territory, including Beardys and Okemasis First Nation, James Smith First Nation, Lac LaRonge First Nation, Montreal Lake Cree Nation, and Muskoday First Nation to name a few that I frequently visited or travelled through during my time in Prince Albert. Throughout my grade school education, it was rarely admitted that we were fortunate to be living on Treaty 6 territory which is problematic as I do believe that as treaty partners we are responsible for acknowledging and honouring the land we live on. Hopefully, this begins to change as we continue to take steps towards truth and reconciliation as a community and recognize that we are all treaty people.

Growing up in Prince Albert, I was exposed to several significant ideas and negotiations that lead to the signing of Treaty 6. Treaty 6 was signed by Crown representatives, and Plains Cree, Assiniboine, and Ojibwa leaders. Prior to beginning negotiations, they all participated in a sacred pipe ceremony led by the Cree leaders as a way of inviting the creator to provide guidance to the negotiators and to witness the treaty signing. By doing this, all participants were agreeing to be honest and to stick to their word. A significant clause to the treaty agreement that had been signed in the previous numbered treaties was the addition of the medicine chest that would be stored at the house of the Indian agent on the reserves. The idea of the medicine chest has lead to various interpretations and highlighted the miscommunication that occurred during the signing of the treaties. Many peoples of Treaty 6 assert that the treaty needs to be translated in a modern-day context meaning that the medicine chest would be equivalent to free health care today.

Understanding the background of Treaty 6 is a start to recognizing my relation to treaty but I need to work on growing my knowledge of the Indigenous Peoples who I am in a partnership with. Due to my privileges of being a white settler, I know that Indigenous Peoples have had to learn and speak my language, understand European worldviews and participate in ceremonies that are respected by my ancestors without me having to engage in or recognize their cultures. This has allowed me to believe the misconception that as a white treaty partner, I am superior and do not have to respect or learn about the identity of the Indigenous Peoples who I am living in partnership with. Listening to the lyrics of Sheena Koop’s song highlights that for many years, settlers have lived with their eyes closed and been oblivious to the idea that other cultures and ways of living exist. It is time that I open my eyes to the languages, worldviews, and traditional ceremonies that help define the identities of Indigenous Peoples as a way of honouring and respecting the promises agreed upon during the signing of Treaty 6. Treaties are for eternity and as a treaty person, I am responsible for acting in accordance with the agreements that were negotiated during the signing of the treaties.

Examining the treaty relations of my home town only becomes meaningful when I ask myself, where do I fit into this? As a white settler, I acknowledge that I am a treaty person who views treaties through my own unique lens due to my privileged experiences. With the aim of being proud of my people, misconceptions about my role as a treaty person have been magnified causing me to have false views about what it means to be a treaty person. I am continuing to disrupt these norms and learn the truth that is leading me to open my eyes and see a clearer image of what it means to be a treaty person. As I continue to grow as an individual, I hope to learn more about the traditional and ceremonial practices and beliefs of the Indigenous Peoples around me so that as an educator I can promote the truth and commit myself to honour the Indigenous Peoples of the land that I am fortunate enough to call home. When treaties were made there “was the mutual agreement to initiate and to create a perpetual familial relationship based on familial concepts defined by the First Nations principles of wâhkôhtowin (good relationships)” (Cardinal & Hildebrandt, 2000, p. 33). It is time for me to start acting like a member of this family. 

Visual Diagram of my growth in understanding of myself as a Treaty Partner

Miskâsowin: Discovering my Identity

The term Miskâsowin refers to finding one’s sense of origin or belonging which initially struck confusion in my brain. In the past, when I have been asked to describe or name myself, I usually start by saying my name is Kendall Schneider and then I begin sharing aspects of myself such as my age, interests and hobbies.  Despite all of these things being characteristics that do describe me, I realize that these are all fairly surface-level ideas of myself, and attributes I want others to know about me. But what else makes me who I am? After reading the first two chapters of Indigenous Writes written by Chelsea Vowel, I feel motivated to begin disrupting the shallow ideas I have about who I am and strive towards defining myself in terms of being a treaty person. It is important for me to begin challenging myself to consider who I am, as an individual living in Canada, and what has made me the person that I am today.

Thinking of myself as a Treaty person is something I have avoided in the past because of the negative history between white settlers and Indigenous Peoples. It is not okay for me to live in denial and although it may be uncomfortable it is important that I identify myself appropriately in order to move away from the past in a positive direction. I am a Settler because I belong to “the non-Indigenous peoples living in Canada who form the European-descended sociopolitical majority.” I recognize that because of this label, I am automatically privileged. I know that the land that I grew up on and call Canada did not belong to my family who settled here and that many customs that are a part of my everyday life originated from settler colonials who are my ancestors.  I am a treaty person because my European Ancestors signed the treaty agreements and I am currently living on treaty 4 land and benefitting from treaty rights.

Beyond being a settler and treaty person, I am a Canadian, White, able-bodied, middle class, cis-gender, straight, Christian women and I am fortunate due to many of these identity features. But what do these labels really mean for me? I know that many of these titles place me in majority groups and thus, I am benefited by the societal norms and social constructs simply for fitting into the categories. For the purpose of finding my sense of origin, I will explore the term Canadian in relation to my personal story comprehensively.

Canadian is a term that I have used for as long as I can remember and I always thought of it as simply a person who lives in Canada. As a white settler in Canada, I am able to hide behind basic elements of my country such as the colours red and white or the temperature being cold because that is where the focus is placed in the media but it is important for me to acknowledge the serious attributes that represent my nation. The Canadian Grand Narrative is problematic because it demonstrates the idea that Canadian history begins with the arrival of Europeans and entirely disregards the people who were on the land prior to this settlement. It is important that when I call myself Canadian, I take ownership of Canada’s true history rather than showing ignorance by believing the stereotypical definitions of Canadians. After consulting my parents, I believe that I am a third-generation Canadian meaning that my great grandparents were not born in Canada but settled on Canadian soil during their lifetimes. All of my great grandparents’ heritage traces back to be German but other than a few phrases, which I struggle to remember, there are no German traditions that are practiced within my family today. Thus, Germany is part of my origin story but not something I relate to.  I challenge myself to continue to explore what being Canadian means to me and my sense of belonging on this land.

Throughout this semester, I look forward to committing myself to explore uncomfortable ideas of my identity and to become content with accepting that the history of my peoples is not all positive. I hope to open myself up to unlearning about what I have previously thought it means to be Canadian in order to welcome and learn new ideas that help to define my identity. I pledge to be honest, open, and resistant to jumping to conclusions with the purpose of avoiding difficult thoughts, in order to strengthen my understanding of myself as a treaty person and how that influences my identity.