A loud, proud crowd of about 200 youths helped Winnipeg Free Press editor Paul Samyn, Indigenous and Métis elders and community leaders on Thursday celebrate the 146th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 1 and a special related exhibit at the Manitoba Museum.

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A loud, proud crowd of about 200 youths helped Winnipeg Free Press editor Paul Samyn, Indigenous and Métis elders and community leaders on Thursday celebrate the 146th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 1 and a special related exhibit at the Manitoba Museum.

The youths, from the Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre and 16 Winnipeg schools, wearing bright yellow T-shirts emblazoned with the powerful words "We are all Treaty People," cheered for Samyn as he took the stage in the museum auditorium.

Samyn told the youngsters that learning about and respecting the treaty relationships is an important part of reconciliation because it is a way to "heal by understanding" and that knowledge "makes us stronger."

"We have an editorial today (in the newspaper) where we say how important the truth is about the Winnipeg Free Pressand the fact that we have been publishing here on Treaty 1 land since 1872," Samyn said.

"Part of the celebration and the acknowledgement that we have is the relationships and the rewards that come from an understanding about what Treaty 1 can be and what can mean for you and your generation. The Free Press is speaking is loudly and clearly about that truth, a truth that was important in 1871 when it was signed and it’s important for today for you."

Samyn said the Free Press will honour the treaties and its 145th year of publication by including 12 special words on the editorial page each day: "Published since 1872 on Treaty 1 territory and the homeland of the Métis."

Those words appeared on the page for the first time in Thursday’s edition.

Kevin Lamoureux, the University of Winnipeg associate vice-president of Indigenous Affairs, taught the children in the crowd the Ojibwa words bozhoo (hello) and miigwech (thank you) as he explained that treaties are the agreements that made Canada possible.

"I’ve come to learn that not every country on the planet has a start like that, a coming together of people. An agreement. When I stand up and I sing the national anthem, one of things I’m most proud of our beginning as a partnership with First Nations people and our settlers (who were) newcomers from other parts of the world."

Former treaty commissioner Chief Dennis White Bird said Indigenous people have occupied land in "Turtle Island" — the Indigenous name for homeland — in Canada for 12,500 years.

From left, Free Press Editor Paul Samyn, Publisher Bob Cox, Norman Meade of Métis Nation, former Manitoba Treaty Commissioner Denis White Bird, former Manitoba Treaty Commissioner Jamie Wilson and Bob Silver, part owner of the Free Press, along with children from 16 Winnipeg schools gathered at the Manitoba Museum to celebrate the signing of Treaty One.</p>

From left, Free Press Editor Paul Samyn, Publisher Bob Cox, Norman Meade of Métis Nation, former Manitoba Treaty Commissioner Denis White Bird, former Manitoba Treaty Commissioner Jamie Wilson and Bob Silver, part owner of the Free Press, along with children from 16 Winnipeg schools gathered at the Manitoba Museum to celebrate the signing of Treaty One.

"When you think about that, you think about the settlers coming into this territory. They were coming in through the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Hudson Bay and also inland to this area," White Bird said.

"Indigenous people signed the treaties and the Crown signed on behalf of all Canadians and that is why we say we are all treaty people."

Métis elder Norman Meade said "our ancestors would be very proud of us" for honouring the treaties, sharing the land and coming together in Treaty 1 territory.

"As we move forward, we move forward in a good way, working together," Meade said. "In order to know where you are going, you have to know where you came from."

Kevin Chief, vice-president of the Business Council of Manitoba, said the special exhibit at the museum, in collaboration with the Treaty Relations Commission of Manitoba, features artifacts donated to the museum by Indigenous families which had them for generations but gave them to the museum so more people can learn about treaties and the history of Manitoba.

"True generosity is to give away something that really means a lot to you, that’s really, really precious, to the point where you don’t think you can do it," Chief said.

"These Indigenous families have items that are over 200 years old. They are the most precious things that these families have... It is an incredible gift, an incredible example of generosity, a beautiful example of generosity."

A museum spokeswoman said the exhibit brings together all eight Manitoba Treaty medals for the first time, including medals for Treaties 1 through 5 and three medals that were discontinued. 

The Treaty medals have been matched with pipes and pipe bags signifying the First Nations’ commitment to the Treaty as a sacred undertaking that was meant to last forever.

Maureen Matthews, the museum’s curator of cultural anthropology, said most adults still have much to learn about treaties.

"These kids, this generation, they have a chance to get it right. They have the treaty education program from the Treaty Commission, so when they come to this museum, they’re going to arrive way better informed than their parents ever were. They will be teaching their parents about this," Matthews said. "What we’re doing here is building on the work of the Treaty Commission."

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca