A treaty acknowledgment protocol and procedure have been implemented in the Border Land School Division (BLSD).
The formal statement recognizes the traditional territory of Canada's Indigenous peoples and is typically read at the start of special events and meetings. It reads as follows:
We acknowledge that the communities and schools located within Border Land School Division sit on Treaty 1 and Treaty 3 land, the original lands of the Anishinaabe peoples and on the homeland of the Metis Nation.
Border Land School Division respects the treaties that were made on these treaty areas and we dedicate ourselves to moving forward in partnership with our Indigenous communities in a spirit of truth, reconciliation, and collaboration.
Since January 2018, BLSD assistant superintendent, Jonathan Toews, has led the effort to develop this document in collaboration with a divisional priority committee and Roseau River First Nation, with consultation from Buffalo Point First Nation--both of which are located within the school division.
"It feels like we've journeyed a good path to get to the place where we can acknowledge and part of our history that hasn't always been treated with respect and dignity. It feels good that we've been able to do this in partnership with our Indigenous partners in Treaty 1 and Treaty 3," Toews said.
That being said, in order to keep the acknowledgment from becoming a meaningless sound bite, Toews added there will be a conscious effort to maintain its integrity as it is rolled out across the school division through ongoing professional development, relationship building with local First Nations and continued support of Indigenous education.
Toews also doesn't want to see the statement become trivialized as it is incorporated into daily school life. Therefore, he said it won't be read at every event but rather in places that showcase and illustrate the division's commitment to reconciliation while acknowledging a piece of Canadian history that has largely been ignored.
Speaking to his own educational experience and growing up as a Manitoban and a Canadian, Toews admitted that until recently he was largely unaware of the fact that treaties were relevant to the current context.
"They weren't anything that I would've read about or learned about in my school experience, and for many years in my teaching I wouldn't have really known how to teach about treaties, or what to teach or even if I should teach," he said.
In addition, posters with the acknowledgment and a culturally accurate graphic will be hung in Border Land School Division buildings.
"It will be a bit of a legacy piece in that we're not changing what it looks like, we're not changing the wording in the near future. We've worked hard to get it to represent what we feel is accurate and meaningful in the partnership we have with our neighbours," Toews said. "It's meant to speak to the evolution of a new relationship."
Related article: BLSD And Roseau River Take Next Step In Reconciliation