UAlberta course teaches about Treaties

(ANNews) – A unique three-month writing course, A Poetics of Treaty, Creative Writing 494, will be held again at the University of Alberta this coming September.

The initiative, explained Creative Writing teacher and Associate (Arts) Professor Christine Stewart (English and Film Studies) “was developed in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. In this class, students will study treaty through nêhiyawêwin (the Cree language), and from the perspective of Indigenous lawyers, scholars, and Elders. We will also study the nêhiyaw writing system, the spirit markers, and learn how the concept of good relations is embedded in and intrinsic to nêhiyawewin.”

This year, a unique opportunity arose and students will now have the opportunity to visit some actual sights where the treaties were negotiated and signed – Fort Pitt for example.

“We were successful in our application for a Killam Cornerstone Grant to take the students on field trips to important sites of land negotiation,” explained Stewart.

“This year we are also considering how going out onto the land might help us better understand our relationship with and obligations to the land.”

The idea behind A Poetics of Treaty 494 course is to create a better understanding of what occurred during the treaty-making processes.

“In particular, we are answering the call to respect and honour treaties (10 vii) by conducting a study of our treaty, Treaty Six. Working regularly with nêhiyaw (Cree) instructor, Reuben Quinn, we are studying nêhiyaw (Cree) concepts of treaty and traditional nêhiyaw understandings of Treaty Six.”

When we look at the language used in the creation of the treaties a lot of time the words didn’t accurately described the intention because the interpretation wasn’t accurate.

Stewart said that the central aim of this class is to understand Treaty Six as a living document. This is achieved by learning how the basic principles of Treaty Six are embedded in the nêhiyaw language, and by studying the concept of treaty as it is understood by nêhiyaw scholars and Elders.

The course is designed to create understanding about such things as: what it means to live on Treaty Six land; what our obligations are; how we might speak to one another with compassion and in terms that we can all understand. The course also seeks to answer the question: what needs to be done, if anything, to ensure that we can be here together in a positive, productive and good way?

Treaty Poetics 494 is co-facilitated by knowledge advocate and language instructor Reuben Quinn, a program coordinator/instructor for the Nēhiyaw Language Lessons offered through the Centre for Race and Culture in Edmonton. A member of the Saddle Lake First Nation, Quinn is a soft-spoken individual, a seasoned veteran of Cree language studies and a fluent Cree speaker who is well known and respected by his peers and his students. He grew up in the residential school era and when the Blue Quills School (now Blue Quills First Nations College) in St. Paul was taken over by the Aboriginal community, the resurgence of language and cultural teachings was immediate.

The 60-year-old Nehiyaw credits the late: Mrs. Rosanna Houle, Mrs. Caroline Hunter, Mr. Joe McGilvery, and Joe Redcrow for reviving the Nehiyaw (Cree) language (Cahkipeyihkanah) and teaching it to all the students who had been liberated from residential school.

To learn more about A Poetics of Treaty, send an inquiry to Christine Stewart at: [email protected].







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