A local school division and First Nation are taking a collaborative approach to reconciliation between their two communities. Officials with Border Land School Division and Roseau River First Nation are creating a treatyacknowledgement protocol and procedure, a formal statement that recognizes Indigenous people occupied Canada's soil prior to the arrival of Western settlers. It will be read at the start of formal events such as sports gatherings, graduations, and meetings.
Begining in 1701, historic treaties were meant to establish land claims, the rights of Indigenous people and to promote peace between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
"It's about opening up new healing pathways for our people through reconciliation, restoration of friendly relations and bringing our people back together - non-Indigenous and Indigenous people," said Craig Alexander, Chief for Roseau River First Nation.
He added it is their hope that by sharing the treaty acknowledgement within their communities the two parties are showing their non-Indigenous and Indigenous students that they are creating a positive learning environment for them.
"A big piece of the whole puzzle here is that we're going to move forward with a positive relationship, establishing a mutually respectful relationship between our people and I think we're going to move quickly and far into the future with this," Chief Alexander said.
He noted the six other Chiefs within Treaty 1 First Nation are fully supportive of this process and want to use the resulting acknowledgement as an example with their local school divisions.
Meanwhile, in light of the 94 calls to action outlined in the Truth and Reconciliation Report, Border Land SD Assistant Superintendent Jonathan Toews feels the Division has a responsibility to work in co-operation with Roseau River on this process and said both parties can use the opportunity to learn from one another.
Both Toews and Chief Alexander agree that the procedure and wording of this treaty acknowledgement needs to reflect the two sides of the conversation and of the original treaty-making process.
"The treaty making process wasn't just one-sided. I think we're mirroring that treaty process when we talk about creating an acknowledgement where we both contribute to the conversation," Toews added.
Toews explained they've been working on the acknowledgement for about six months and are still fine-tuning the wording to reflect both sides of the treaty. Once that is done, he said the next step will be to look at what treaty acknowledgement looks like in schools on a daily basis.
"Do we need to use the same lengthy wording in announcements at schools as we do for the more formal events? There's different angles to this conversation that we're still working out and developing," Toews said.
Finally, Chief Alexander noted that June is Aboriginal History Month and he is encouraging everyone to inform themselves of the history of Indigenous people in Canada and to learn about the history of the treaty.