By Brad Bellegarde

Students from four Regina high schools took a unique approach to learning about treaty rights from a First Nations perspective, one that included a re-enactment of a Treaty signing.

Students from Campbell Collegiate, Balfour High School, Martin Collegiate and Scott Collegiate attended a two-day conference that examined treaty rights. It was held at First Nations University of Canada (FNU) Regina campus in April.

“We want to teach about Treaty (but) we realized, we do teach from the (book), but don’t really understand its meaning,” said Naomi Fortier-Frecon, conference organizer and high school French immersion teacher at Campbell Collegiate.

Students learned about topics from white privilege to Cree laws and took part in a re-enactment of the September 15th, 1874 signing of Treaty 4.

“We got this idea that instead of studying Treaty, why don’t we try to live Treaty,” said Fortier-Frecon. “It was important to go to the root to try and understand tradition and knowledge,” she added.

Levi Reoch, a grade 12 student at Campbell Collegiate said, “I was pretty excited to learn more about the treaties.”

Reoch took part in the re-enactment of the Treaty 4 signing and said, “It was a better learning experience because if it was a presentation [students] doze off sometimes and I think [students] learn better that way,” referring to the re-enactment.

Reoch’s hands-on experience led him to understand, “Not all Chiefs were okay with everything. They all wanted equality (and) that’s why the Treaty was signed,” he said.

The conference was organized by the Regina Public School Division (RPSD). Aboriginal education coordinator Calvin Racette said, “I thought it was a beautiful idea,” in regards to the planning of the two-day conference.

“They wanted to mix the (students) together to show (students) they belong together, (they) can work together and that was the message,” said Racette. “To me I’m very optimistic about that (approach), I think it’s a really good idea, it’s a good thing and it should happen on a regular basis,” he added.

FNU students also got a chance to facilitate some sessions, including the re-enactment of the Treaty 4 signing. “Involving the (high school) students made it more real for them,” said Nicole Peigan, a second year indigenous education student.

“Our ancestors signed Treaties for us, they thought about our rights to education and health and it’s important that everybody becomes educated about Treaties because we are all Treaty people,” she added.

Facilitators of the conference sessions included award winning author and professor Dr. James Daschuk, University of Regina professor Dr. Shauneen Pete, Idle No More co-founder Sylvia McAdam and FNU professor Dr. Angelina Weenie.

The last day of the conference wrapped up with an art project facilitated by artist Ray Keighley. The students collaborated on a mural that featured small pieces of canvas each painted and placed together like a puzzle.

Organizers hope this conference generates a new appreciation and understanding of Treaty for the students as they continue on their life journey. “I hope to see more respect and understanding about each others’ differences,” said Fortier-Frecon. “Now that they realize, yes, we are in Regina, but we are on Treaty 4 land, I hope to see continuity in their learning and when a situation in life happens, they can stand up and say no, that’s not right, this is a stereotype this is not true.”

 

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