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André Boutin-Maloney Transcript
Finding Common Ground: A Treaty Walk (and Roll) of Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatchewan is this collaborative project that combined research, storytelling and geographic mapping to create this self-guided tour. A digital self-guided tour around our community. It starts with this idea that we want to do an mapping exercise, and we didn't want to map just for the sake of mapping. I wanted to layer in some some social justice issues just to make it more meaningful.
And around the same time, one of my coworkers she'd created a guided walk of the community that centered around this idea of walking with treaty on the mind. And it really it's about envisioning and reimagining the spaces that are around us through this treaty lens. And I took my class and we went out and we experienced that walk as it was.
And then we came back to the classroom and and we started mapping it out. And then we started brainstorming kind of all these other ideas. Like what? What's missing from this? Or what stories do you think we need to add? What points do you think should be added or taken away? And we started kind of generating ideas and moving things around and and then we kind of dove down into this research where we, like each took different topics and we became citizen researchers and we started like looking at historical documents and visiting the museum or going speaking with community members or elders or knowledge keepers and just, you know, getting some information about these spaces and and trying to come up with a message that we wanted to convey. And around the same time we started exploring a GIS mapping software. And so we thought maybe we could take this original guided walk and we could recreate it in this digital format where we could make it more accessible. And a digital version that we kind of released to the public.
We started to research and go down these rabbit holes and research something and then someone would share something and say, You know what, I think this would fit better with the point that you're working on and maybe we should move this around. And I think, you know, there's lots of layers of treaties and when you get into it, there's times we had to pause and think about like, okay, that that's deep. And how do we convey that to somebody who is going to be doing this walk, like on their own? When the walk was guided, you could kind of walk with the person and you could see like you could they could ask questions, they could you could gauge their body language. Right. And so we always have to think about like, okay, this is the information we want to share and how do we share that in a way that a person could take it if they were all by themselves?
And the nice thing about the story map software is that it allowed us to add pictures and video and links to like websites or news stories that kind of helped us to to create a message for each of these points. In the end, it became this process of curation where the students would take these images and text and they would build what I would call like a like a virtual signpost or marker. I'm sure you've seen like historical points along the highway. You pull over and there's like a board there and there's information. This is like that, except that when you go to the physical location, there's no physical board. That information is in your hand, on your cell phone. So it was them actually creating each of these points around the community on this walk. Overall, like we just had a lot of fun building it together and we're really happy to share it with the world.
In the days leading up to this project. We knew it was going to be fairly big and I knew I needed the students to buy into it. So I remember like leading up to it, I was like trying to generate like my my points to convince the class that all education has a role to play in reconciliation and indigenous voice is important to tell truth and youth can be powerful agents of change. And I remember going in, I had a co-teacher Elizabeth Ingram, and there were two white teachers going into this class of primarily Indigenous students, basically asking or trying to convince them that this is a project we should do. And I get into my spiel about trying to explain what we're doing and and all of a sudden a student kind of piped up and he said, Looks like a big job, but I think we can do it. And I was kind of taken aback, like I wasn't expecting them to buy in or so quickly. And I was kind of like, Wait, there's more! Like, I was trying to still explain why we should do it. And it was, you know, we had a laugh and but from that moment, we kind of approached it together as more or less equals.
So I think for the students, there's a couple of things, like it was an opportunity for them to share their knowledge and lived experience as Indigenous people. And then I also think it helped bring history to life for them. I remember students talking about how, you know, creating this treaty walk. They were starting to look at their community like in a different light, thinking about it in a different way. It goes beyond like them handing me something for for marks, like a assignment. They knew that we were going to be releasing this out into the world. And I think that put some extra impetus and they know that they wanted to do a good job of it. And I also think that takes a great deal of courage to put your work out there.
But when you do, it also builds a level of confidence. There's a a voice that comes out of it, a willingness to kind of speak up to injustice. And I often tell the students, like, use your weapon, like use your voice to speak out against things that you think aren’t right. And the treaty walk has a lot of things that I think need to be told in it.
It's what I would call outer work. The treaty work itself is this educational tool that is available for those who are interested in doing the inner work, which is starting to learn and unlearn about our colonial history. And I think there's a lot of people like maybe my generation older, that they missed out on a lot of this learning when they went through school. It wasn't part of our curriculum.
So when you go on this treaty walk, there's a lot of information and a lot of emotions to unpack. And we included this this kind of cathartic piece at the end where there's a form where you can respond and and we encourage people to share their thoughts and also do something with the emotions that it creates and people will write us messages and sometimes they'll include artwork or or pictures that our work inspired. And I think that's part of the the community piece.
We also have like multiple teachers are using this in their classrooms. Maybe to introduce a topic, they'll visit an area of the treaty walk that connects to something they're learning in class. We've had multiple schools come out. As for professional development, take their whole staff and go out and do the treaty walk just for the learning piece. And in addition to that, like the University of Regina's picked it up and a couple of classes are exploring its use as a way to infuse reconciliation into the classroom and I think one of the most exciting things is that we have people taking this idea and creating treaty walks in their own communities. And I think it's just really exciting to see what people are doing with it and to see it grow and where it will go from here.
I like to think about history as like human stories and I would say like it's a profoundly human endeavor to gather and listen to and share stories with each other. And I think reframing it in this way makes it more inviting, makes the content more approachable.
I think if you ask my students, they might not agree, but I'm trying to do less lecturing and more simulation or game type activities. I think every field tries to explain the world through a different lens. So math has this like abstract logical lens that deals with patterns and relationships and and quantities. And biology has this focus on living things and how they change in function. And I think history really gives us this lens of time how people, events, societies change over time. We look at those events and then we think about like, okay, this event influences are our current present reality. And I think a lot of people think history is like a record of past events, but it's more than that. It helps us understand the complexities and the interrelatedness of our world. And I always tell the students, it's like connecting the dots, like think about like this event happened and how that had an influence on this other event and then another event and then, you know, why is our present the way it is and then hopefully we can extend that thinking forward.
I would like to think like our students are future like voters. Their future policymakers are future leaders. They're their changemakers. And so I think history gives students this ability to think about the future. It gives them a way to imagine a better future. And then think about what are the steps or what are the things that need to start happening now to bring about that reality.