Education is our Buffalo! WIPCE 2017 part I

24 July 2017 WIPCE Opening Ceremony

“Education is our buffalo!” (Senator Constance Simmons, Metis Nation of Ontario )

Among the wonderful and warmly colorful memories of this “conférence pas comme les autres ” where I will co-chair a joint panel with Brock Pitawanakwat, Anishinabeg and Rachel Sayet, Mohegan

Rachel Sayet and Will Flavell
from Connecticut, let me share some notes:

On the bus going to the Six Nations website, I met Steward Breaker, a Thunder Medicine Pipe Holder (Beaver MPH, catchers are some other ranks) whose Blackfoot (siksika) name is “Apos’oyis” meaning weasel tail, who speaks Blackfoot on daily basis. Blackfoot are an Algonquin Nation with a language which originated from the Buffalo (blood and bones, and Napi, a blond blue eyed giant).

His nation has even created an app to learn the language !(Oki: hello) he taught me that Blackfoot and Blackfeet refer to the geographic location of the same tribe on either side of the 49th parallel. He also told me horrible stories regarding the Indian Residential school System which was directed by people expelled from the army for misconduct who raped Indigenous children on a daily basis…both his father (for 6 years and himself (2 year) did get abused but not to the extent of the older generations like his father in the 30s to the 60s).

Stewart also mentioned a present dollars argument is opposing the Siksika and the province and might end in a trial if no agreement found by October 2017.

As for the opening ceremony, after a spectacular arrival of all chiefs by boat it was inaugurated by Haudenosaunee Chef Jock Hill with a Thanksgiving address the translation of which I owe my colleague Joshua Waters:


Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address

Greetings to the Natural World

The People

Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and

thanks to each other as people.
Now our minds are one.


The Earth Mother

We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.


The Waters

We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms‐ waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.  
Now our minds are one.

The Fish

We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.


The Plants

Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.
Now our minds are one.


The Food Plants

With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.
Now our minds are one.


The Medicine Herbs

Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.
Now our minds are one.
The Animals

We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for ourpeople. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one


The Trees

We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.
Now our minds are one.


The Birds

We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds‐from the smallest to the largest‐we send our joyful greetings and thanks.
Now our minds are one.


The Four Winds

We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.


The Thunderers

Now we turn to the west where our grandfathers, the Thunder Beings, live. With lightning and thundering voices, they bring with them the water that renews life. We are thankful that they keep those evil things made by Okwiseres underground. We bring our minds together as one to send greetings and thanks to our Grandfathers, the Thunderers.

Now our minds are one.


The Sun

We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.
Now our minds are one.


Grandmother Moon

We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night‐time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.
Now our minds are one.


The Stars

We give thanks to the Stars who are spread across the sky like jewelry. We see them in the night, helping the Moon to light the darkness and bringing dew to the gardens and growing things. When we travel at night, they guide us home. With our minds gathered together as one, we send greetings and thanks to the Stars.
Now our minds are one.


The Enlightened Teachers

We gather our minds to greet and thank the enlightened Teachers who have come to help throughout the ages. When we forget how to live in harmony, they remind us of the way we were instructed to live as people. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to these caring teachers.

Now our minds are one.


The Creator

Now we turn our thoughts to the creator, or Great Spirit, and send greetings and thanks for all the gifts of Creation. Everything we need to live a good life is here on this Mother Earth. For all the love that is still around us, we gather our minds together as one and send our choicest words of greetings and thanks to the Creator.
Now our minds are one.


Closing Words

We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.
Now our minds are one.

This translation of the Mohawk version of the Haudenosaunee Thanksgiving Address was developed, published in 1993, and provided, courtesy of: Six Nations Indian Museum and the Tracking Project All rights reserved. Thanksgiving Address: Greetings to the Natural World English version: John Stokes and Kanawahienton (David Benedict, Turtle Clan/Mohawk) Mohawk version: Rokwaho (Dan Thompson, Wolf Clan/Mohawk) Original inspiration: Tekaronianekon (Jake Swamp, Wolf Clan/Mohawk)

This powerful address was summarized into:

The 50 peoples of our confederacy are cleaning you from the top of your head to the your bottom of your feet”..

.. Metaphorically speaking due to time constraints 😜

Here is his written statement in the WIPCE programme booklet:

The Haudenosaunee, also known as the Six Nations to the English and Iroquois to the French, have the oldest continuing-operating Indigenous govenrment. Known as the People of the Longhouse, the Haudenosaunee are actually six different nations- Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk and Tuscarora- that have united into one confederacy and operate under the Great Law of Peace. This Confederacy is perhaps the oldest constitutional governement in the world.
Over 1,000 years old, the Grand Council of the Haudenosaunee is comprised of 50 male leaders, commonly called Chiefs, who are selected by the female leader of theextended family clans that form the primary social unit of the Haudenosaunee society. These Clan Mothers ensure that male leaders are honest, fair-minded, and peaceful leaders who will always have the best interest of the people in their decision-making. Interestingly, if a male leader fails in his duties, the Clan Mother has the right to remove him from his office. Together, they help to govern and guide the Haudenosaunee, who now exist in New York State, Ontario, Quebec, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and in urban areas all across North America.

Hill, Rick (2017), ‘The Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chiefs Council’, paper given at WIPCE 2017, Toronto, 24-28 July 2017.

Mohawk chief Howard Elijah declared he was willing to “wipe your sadness with a white eagle feather to uplift your mind and be clear minded”
Elder Peter Beaucage performed the Anishinabeg pipe ceremony (in 5 mn instead of 2 hours!): “We welcome you here to our country which is now called Canada”

The whole ceremony was dignified yet full of tender humour and great gender balance as, on behalf of the Métis Nation of Ontario, Senator Constance Simmons “appreciated the hard work keeping our language alive, our elders who have preserved our ceremony(…) The Buffalo had fed us, clothed us and was almost driven to extension but is now coming back. Education is our buffalo! She performed the lighting of sweet grass as an hommage.

The other remarkable moment was Inuit Qullik Lighting 

The final address was made by Chief Ava Hill of Six Nations and the academic co-hosts Tuesday Johnson-MacDonald and Rebecca Jamieson with the brillant prospect that the Six Nations Politechnic soon becomes the first Canadian Indigenous University!

Rebecca is the President and CEO of Six Nations Polytechnic (read University!).

Jamieson, Rebecca (2017), ‘A celebration of Indigenous Resilience’, paper given at WIPCE 2017, Toronto, 24-28 July 2017.

Indigenous peoples are engaged in a growing global movement that shares a common experience of reconciliation to recover from the legacy of global colonization. The World Indigenous education movement is linked with the development of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the formation of the World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC). In Canada, the movement to reclaim education for the purposes of recovery, revitalization and restoration of Indigenous ways of knowing and being is most often linked with the National Indian Brotherhood’s policy statement, Indian Control of Indian Education, 1972. It is important to acknowledge that the movement is grounded in the resilience of the Indigenous people who kept their languages, knowledge, ceremonies and ways of being alive despite all efforts to eradicate them.
In Canada, there has been encouraging interest in reconililation following the release of the Truth and Reconcilation Commission’s Call to Action, 2015. The now documented dark history of Canada made possible through the extraordinary bravery and resilience of survivors, their families and communities is giving all people in Canada and the world unprecedented opportunities to understand what happened and to take steps towards healing and reconciliation.
The post TRC period has been acknowledged by Government as a time of real and positive change.
“We know what is needed is a total renewal of the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples. We have a plan to move toards a nation-to-nation relationship based on recognition, rights, respect, cooperation and partnership….Ane we will, in partnership with Indigenous communities, the provinces, territories, and other vital partners, fully implement the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, starting with the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” Trudeau, Justin (2015), ‘Statement by Prime Minister on release of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’.
Positive commitments to Indigenous educaiton by the Ontario government combined with the Federal and Provincial responses to Canada’s TRC’s Calls to Action created unprecedented optimism among Indigenous peoples in Canada particularly in Indigenous education.
Anyone involved in Inigenous community development knows there are significant challenges to address resulting from the legacy of residential schools, broader assimilationsist policies and systemic racism. Evidence of these concerns include:
Widespread concerns raised by families regarding the methodology used to create the database by the Inquiry into Missing and murdered Indigenous Women and Girls;
The Disproportionate incarceration rates of Indigenous peoples in Canada: While Aboriginal people make up about 4% of the Canadian population, as of February 2013, 23.2% of the federal inmate population is Aboriginal (First nation, Métis or Inuit). There are approximately 3,400 Aboriginal offenders in federal penitentiaries, approximately 71% are First Nation, 24% Métis and 5% Inuit. In 2010-11, Candaa’s overall incaarceration rate was 140 per 100,000 adults. The incarceration rate for Aboriginal adults in Canada is estimated to be 10 times higher than the incarceration rate of non-Aboriginal adults. The high rate of incarceration for Aboriginal peoples has been linked to systemic discrimination and attitudes based on racial or cultural prejdice, as well as economic and social disadvantage, substance abuse and intergeneraitonal loss, violence and trauma
(cf. Canada, Government (2013), ‘BACKGROUNDER: Aboriginal Offenders – A Critical Situation’.)
The Ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal that the federal govenment discrimated against children on reserves in its funding of child welfare services (cf. (2016), ‘Canadian Human Rights Tribunal Decisions on First Nations Child Welfare and Jordan’s Principle’, (Canadian Human Rights Tribunal).)
The dsporportionate number of Indigenous children in the child welfare system : “Aboriginal children and youth are drastically over-represented in the child welfare system. This is a national crisis. Despite representing less than 3% of the Canada’s child population, Aboriginal children represent approximatesly 15% of the children in care (http://shuswapnation.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/13-02-23-Fact-Sheet-Child-Welfare_UPDATED_Fe.pdf)
The Continuing education attainment ap. The first reality is that there are still far too many indigenous yough who are not completing high school. If we look at the data from 1996 to the present, the numbers are staggeringly high: the number of Indigenous persons without a high school diploman incresed by 80,165 between 1996 and 2011. When we project the trend out to 2016 and 2021, we see a further increase of 50,000
There is an unacceptable 20-percentate point gap in post-secondary educational attainment between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations.(cf. Editors’ Commentary: The Challenges inImproving Indigenous Educational Attainment, Jerry P. White University of Western Ontario, white@uwo.ca, Julie PetersAcademica Group Inc., julie@academicagroup.com)

Needless to say on such occasions I met lovely people, Maori, Hawaiians, and in the school bus taking me back …on my first school bus ride from the Six Nations Reserve, Tailor Muloin and Leah, two young Metis: Country born or black Scotts wearing the Sash and the Ojibway strep dress for Leah. I have countless videos but fear my blog memory might not suffice but anyone knowing my taste in the matter will understand my choice:

​and these fabulous voices I’ll never forget​

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