There are moments in our lives that are truly significant; moments that affect us on a personal level. I had a few such moments on June 13, 2019.
I had been interested in the Truth and Reconciliation movement for a while, reading books and attending seminars in Calgary. They were good, but I yearned for something to happen on a more personal level and within my own city. A chance postcard from a friend told me about the Walk for Common Ground.
It began on May 31 when a group of 30 core walkers (health science union members, faith-community members, school division leaders, Dr. Pat Makokis and members of First Nations communities) left Edmonton (Treaty 6) and walked to Calgary (Treaty 7) arriving on June 14. It was the second last day when I had the privilege of joining the walk for 8 km as they entered Airdrie.
Walking is a wonderful way to engage in one-on-one conversations, and I did that with a number of people. I heard about the frustrations of discrimination, the struggles to eliminate myths and replace them with truths, what it means to be in a mutually beneficial Treaty relationship, and the importance of ceremony, sacred objects and seeing all life (from insects to trees) as vital parts of our existence.
As a European descendant, I have never felt the level of discrimination that First Nations people experience on a daily basis. But I did that day. Twice.
Walkers broke for lunch around 1:30 p.m. and then again for a rest an hour or so later. Both times we found a grove of trees to sit under, just a few feet off the road. It was hot and the shade was cool and welcoming. In both cases, very livid landowners stormed on us, screaming to “get off their land!”
While I understand landowner’s rights, I was shocked by the level of anger. One threatened to call the police. Both situations were handled calmly and humbly by walker organizers, explaining that this was a peaceful walk and no harm was intended. While that helped, you could see they weren’t happy we were on or near their property’s entrance.
Still the walk continued.
In the evening, a Treaty teaching session was held followed by a Talking Circle. Everyone in the community was welcomed. I was pleased to see our Mayor Peter Brown attend along with other community members. While I can't say what was said (what is spoken in a circle, stays in a circle) I can say that hearing so many people speak their truths and hearing their viewpoints had a profound and lasting effect on me.
One of the things I'm most grateful for is the connections I made that day. To walk and talk with someone from another nation and to get to know them on a personal level is a truly enlightening and humbling experience.
I am proud to be part of the growing community that believes in reconciliation. I am proud to be called a Settler Ally by my First Nations friends. I look forward to making more connections, building relationships and hearing more about how I can become a good Treaty partner ensuring a better future for all.
To view the film “Treaty Talk: Sharing the River of Life” and find ways you can participate, go to www.treatytalk.com