I work part time at the Winnipeg Art Gallery as a tour guide. We are encouraged to begin our tours by acknowledging that the art gallery building stands on Treaty One Land, land that once belonged to Canada’s Indigenous people.
All gallery guides have participated in training sessions where we learned about the negotiations between Indigenous leaders and the British Crown at Lower Fort Garry in 1871. These negotiations resulted in the signing of Treaty One. The Crown and the Indigenous leaders had very different ideas about what that treaty meant. Indigenous leaders believed they were signing a treaty that would protect their way of life and create a framework for sharing the land with settlers. The British Crown understood the land was being ceded to them.
During our training sessions we also learned about the residential schools set up by the government to educate Indigenous children. Through first hand stories and artifacts we came to understand how devastating the residential school experience was for many Indigenous children.
A current exhibit at the Winnipeg Art Gallery is called Qua’yuktchi’gae’win or Making Good. Through a variety of art pieces it catalogues the Indigenous experience and pays tribute to the strength that has allowed many to survive and even thrive despite its hardships.
I have a second part time job at the University of Winnipeg. If you go to their website you will read that, “Our University is located on Treaty One territory, on the traditional territory of the Anishinaabe peoples and the homeland of the Metis Nation. The University and the Forks of the City of Winnipeg sits at the crossroads of the Anishinaabe, Metis, Cree, Dakota and Oji-Cree Nations.”
The University of Winnipeg is committed to the goal of someday having a province where the percentage of Indigenous people with a university education is equal to that of the general population. I am beginning to see that commitment as more Indigenous students join the department where I work.
I live just down the street from the Human Rights Museum and have a membership there. Museum literature clearly states they are on Treaty One land at the historic location of Métis occupation and Louis Riel’s provisional government, on a site that’s been a meeting place for Indigenous people for over six thousand years. I know from visits to the museum they have multiple exhibits exploring the legacy of residential schools.
During services at the Mennonite church I attend in Winnipeg we have begun to acknowledge during worship that our church stands on Treaty One land. I was recently asked to create text for a brochure our church published titled We Are On Treaty Land. It states our church acknowledges much of the land referenced in Treaty One was given to our Mennonite ancestors when they immigrated to Manitoba.
The brochure indicates our desire to recognize the important contributions of Indigenous people to the history of the area where we worship, to learn from their spirituality and culture, and to work at building strong respectful relationships with one another that will result in reconciliation.
I was at a book launch at McNally Robinson on Tuesday night and the staff person who introduced the launch reminded us we were on Treaty One land.
Many institutions are beginning to publicly acknowledge they stand on land that once belonged to Indigenous people. It’s a good first step toward reconciliation. But what is the next one?