The treaties date back to 1847, but what do they mean today?
People celebrating Treaty Days at the Gathering Place in Regina say they are still relevant.
“Sometimes people have the misconception that treaties are in the past and/or that they exist only within the confines of the reserve line boundaries,” Erica Beaudin, the urban services manager for Regina Treaty/Status Indian Services and organizer of Urban Treaty Days, said. “It’s really important for us to have Urban Treaty Days because we talk about how they’re still alive, how we are all treaty people and how we all have the responsibility to continue on with the treaty relationship amongst all of us.”
She also said that the treaties are particularly relevant during a time of reconciliation between indigenous people and the newcomers and that includes anyone whose families arrived after 1847.
“When we talk about ‘honour the treaties’, it’s much more than just a phrase; it’s a responsibility,” Beaudin said. “It’s a responsibility with all of us in order to understand what our collective history is, what our individual history is, where we’re at today and what we need to do in the future.”
Sherry Bellegarde was sitting at one of several information booths set up in the tents outside. She said it was important for her to come to Treaty Days as a First Nations woman because she wants people to recognize that treaties are still important.
“It’s a promise that was made to us for giving up land, so they should be honoured still today,” she said. “I guess to be recognized that we did give up quite a bit in order to get these treaties.”
In keeping with tradition dating back close to 170 years, hundreds of people lined up to collect their treaty annuity payment at the Gathering Place.
“It’s something we grow up with, knowing that we get five dollars,” Nelly Thompson, a member of the Carry the Kettle First Nation, explained.
She brought her grandson with her to celebrate treaty days.
“To honour them is to enjoy what we have and take care of it,” Thompson said, noting that in some ways, she feels that the treaties are dying out, with some things not covered the way they used to be.
“I hope it’s still there when he’s all grown up and needs his education. I’m hoping it’s still there for him. I’m hoping it’s still there for my great-grandchildren and so on.”
When asked about the payment, several people at the event kind of smiled or laughed about what five dollars covers in the modern age. To some it’s more of a symbolic tradition, while a few said the payments should be adjusted.
Amanda Moosemay was set up at another information booth for the Canadian Diabetes Foundation. She brought her entire family out to the event. She said it’s important to celebrate the treaties with the entire community.
“It’s entertaining. It’s fun and they get a little bit of history within it,” she explained. “It’s more about a learning experience and just getting out with everybody and still celebrating that we still have treaties.”
The two-day event also features children’s activities, a powwow demonstration, a bannock making competition and a neck bone eating competition. On Wednesday, there will also be an educational clinic on how to obtain Indian Status cards.