We Are All Treaty People

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ARTS -

Man­i­toba Mu­seum To Oct. 26 in Dis­cov­ery Room Reg­u­lar mu­seum ad­mis­sion zone. Talks are also on­go­ing about ed­u­ca­tion on re­serves and re­source de­vel­op­ment. There are 22 land claims out­stand­ing. “There are un­fair­nesses that we have yet to re­solve,” says Matthews. “So many people in Man­i­toba think the treaty process ended with its sign­ing. Re­ally, the treaty process be­gins with its sign­ing. It’s the de­vel­op­ment over the last 100 years that has re­ally shaped our prov­ince. “We all ben­e­fit from treaties, not just na­tive people. We wouldn’t have a right to stand here if we didn’t have treaties.” Matthews couldn’t see how the ex­hibit would demon­strate what treaties mean to abo­rig­i­nal people with­out bring­ing into the pub­lic the spir­i­tual ar­ti­facts. The pipes were part of a sa­cred rit­ual that con­nected phys­i­cal and spir­i­tual worlds. They helped with con­sul­ta­tions with the Cre­ator dur­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions and then were smoked to seal the covenant or treaty. She strictly fol­lowed the pro­to­col for han­dling the ma­te­rial, in­clud­ing con­vers­ing with some ob­jects. “I do it be­cause I un­der­stand that they liked to be talked to,” says Matthews, who hopes there will be a per­ma­nent treaty dis­play af­ter We Are All Treaty People closes in Oc­to­ber. “I’m happy to do it. It’s not a game or in­sin­cere in any way.” A few days be­fore open­ing, Matthews, at the di­rec­tion of Elders Coun­cil of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Man­i­toba Chiefs, held a feast at the shut­tered mu­seum that in­cluded a wa­ter cer­e­mony, invit­ing the re­turn of the spir­its of the pipes. “The elders wel­comed back the pipes,” says Wil­son, whose com­mis­sion was a part­ner with the mu­seum in the ex­hibit. “They brought old pipes to join the mod­ern pipes. In our cul­ture, pipes are com­pa­ra­ble to hu­man re­mains and the re­spect that goes with that. You carry them like they were a baby. “You could feel the en­ergy in the room. It was elec­tric and pretty amaz­ing. We were invit­ing them to speak again and giv­ing them voice.” What the pipes are say­ing is that the treaties rep­re­sent a mar­riage of two peo­ples and that the re­la­tion­ship is both his­tor­i­cal and con­tem­po­rary. “They say that the treaties last as long as the sun shines and wa­ter flows,” Wil­son says. “If you want to un­der­stand where we are in Canada to­day you have to un­der­stand treaties. If you want to un­der­stand treaties you have to un­der­stand the spir­i­tual com­po­nent.” That We are All Treaty People sur­vived so many cul­tural ob­sta­cles is a re­as­sur­ing sign for fu­ture ne­go­ti­a­tions. “The process of get­ting the ar­ti­facts dis­played was a real demon­stra­tion of how First Na­tions and other Cana­di­ans should work,” Wil­son said.

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