Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 5/8/2017 (1211 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
We are always in a good place when we are willing to learn together. There are examples of how to take risks and succeed. There are always opportunities to move forward in a positive way.
The ceremony that took place Thursday at the Manitoba Museum was a celebration, and with good reason. The central message of the event — the Winnipeg Free Press’s decision to mark the 146th anniversary of the signing of Treaty 1 with an acknowledgment that, as the T-shirts worn by 200 young Winnipeggers in attendance said, "We are all Treaty People" — was delivered with sincerity and a sense of purpose, but also in a way that allowed the young crowd to feel joyful and proud.
When I saw the old pictures at the Manitoba Museum of those historic treaty signings, there was joy and pride in the agreements reached by the Indigenous Peoples and those of European descent who had come to this territory to build a home, too.
But for too long in this city and province, there has not been pride or joy surrounding this important document — in large part because there has been a lack of understanding about treaty.
My father had many obstacles in life, but loved his son as much as any father could. He wanted to carry a set a burdens for me so I could be free of it. One of the last things I remember him saying is, "I want you to be proud of who you are."
He died far too young from alcoholism and never saw the full benefits of the agreement that was signed at Lower Fort Garry on Aug. 3, 1871.
However, there are new opportunities for all treaty people, like those children in the bright yellow T-shirts, with even brighter eyes, who watched Thursday’s event — an event which, I confess, had me more than a little nervous.
The positive outcome was anything but guaranteed. The newspaper’s gesture could have been rejected. And part of what matters about this is that the Free Press, under the guidance of editor Paul Samyn, was willing to take the risk.
It brought to mind an experience from my own youth, during my first year as a member of the University of Winnipeg Wesmen basketball team.
I had been recruited out of high school with great expectations, but my rookie season was not going well. During my very limited on-court time as a first-year player, I was not producing results; instead of scoring, I was committing turnovers.
I was frustrated, until coach Bill Wedlake offered a bit of wisdom — he called me into his office and said, "I’m not concerned that you’re making mistakes; it’s the kind of mistakes you’re making that’s driving me crazy."
It wasn’t that I was missing shots; it was that I wasn’t taking shots. And it wasn’t that I was turning the ball over; it was that those turnovers didn’t happen as a result of driving to the basket. Coach Wedlake wanted my mistakes to be the result of trying to make my teammates better.
Paul and the Free Press were willing to try something. I think by taking that risk, and by admitting that there have been times in the past that the newspaper could have done better, the Free Press has shown leadership that might inspire other Manitobans to consider the role that treaties have played in all our lives.
Leadership is a tricky thing. Sometimes, it means taking direct action or speaking out loudly in order to accomplish a goal; other times, leadership requires taking a step back and supporting the voices of others who have struggled to make themselves heard.
Hopefully, the leadership that was shown this week will allow other people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to join the conversation that was sparked by elder and former treaty commissioner Dennis White Bird when he first suggested that "We are all treaty people."
The Aug. 3 editorial that declared the Free Press has been "published since 1872 on Treaty 1 territory and the homeland of the Métis" was historic, as no major Canadian daily has ever made such a gesture. The editorial was as powerful as it was sincere — and testament to the power of truth in building understanding.
And the Free Press has demonstrated, through its words and actions, how Indigenous and non-Indigenous people can both be stronger when there is a will to come together in the spirit of treaty.
Kevin Chief is vice-president of the Business Council of Manitoba and is proud to stand with all of us as treaty people.
Point Douglas constituency report
Kevin Chief was the NDP MLA for Point Dougla until 2017.