Jan. 13, 2020

ii’ taa’poh’to’p’s new series brings Elders’ voices into the spotlight

Learn about treaties through traditional oral teachings on Jan. 16

Since ii’ taa’poh’to’p, UCalgary’s Indigenous Strategy, launched in 2017, its team has been working to bring Indigenous voices into policy-making, teaching, learning, and research on campus. And with the launch of their highly successful Indigenous Knowledge Public Lecture Series, leading Indigenous scholars have shared their perspectives with growing audiences from throughout the city.

This semester, ii’ taa’poh’to’p will expand its programming with a specific focus on Elders from the Treaty 7 region and beyond with the Elders Teachings Series. With two events scheduled this semester, the aim is to showcase traditional oral teachings and reflections from Elders in an accessible way. The first event on Jan. 16 will be about the complex histories of Treaties in Canada and how we can move forward as Treaty people in a good way.

  • Photos above: Alice Kaquitt and Victor S. Buffalo will speak on Jan. 16.

The meaning of Treaty

“Since the Treaties were signed back in the late 1800s, we’ve only really heard about them from a settler perspective, from commissioners and politicians,” says Dr. Reg Crowshoe, UCalgary’s Traditional Knowledge Keeper in Residence and moderator of the event. His great-grandfather, Running Wolf, was one of the signers of Treaty 7 in 1877, and many important teachings about Indigenous-settler relations have been passed down through his family.

“We need to know what Elders have to say about how they made Treaty back then, and if the Treaties they’re part of now are close to what their people made historically. The goal for the event will be to compare Blackfoot, Îyârhe Nakoda and Maskwacis (Cree) Treaty-making from an oral perspective.” 

Îyârhe perspectives on Treaty 7

Crowshoe will welcome Îyârhe (Stoney) Nakoda Elder, community leader and UCalgary alumna Alice Kaquitts, whose great-grandfather Chief Hector Crawler was also one of the Treaty 7 signers.

“From the stories I’ve heard from my grandparents and parents, Treaty is viewed as a peace Treaty,” says Kaquitts. “It’s an alliance between a nation and the Queen, and my people believed that this alliance was sacred. But we were treated unfairly.”

In addition to the injustices imposed upon all Treaty 7 nations after its signing in 1877, the Îyârhe Nation faced distinct challenges. As a result of miscommunication by the European surveyors, the separate nations of the Wesley, Bearspaw and Chiniki were all allotted one parcel of land, and to this day, they have had to negotiate the resulting political complexities.

“It affects us economically,” says Kaquitts, whose family is part of the Wesley Nation. “When you have three distinct nations living on one land base, its difficult to reach an agreement, in terms of economic decisions, so it still very much affects us today.”

Former chief Victor S. Buffalo on Treaty 6

The Jan. 16 event will also feature Samson Cree Elder Victor S. Buffalo, former chief and councillor of the Samson Cree Nation in Maskwacis, also known as Hobbema, in the Treaty 6 region. As Samson chief, Buffalo was instrumental in ensuring the Treaties were included in the Canadian Constitution when it was repatriated to Canada, and as president of International Organization of Indigenous Resource Development, he was involved in the protection and preservation of world Treaty Rights in Geneva and New York. 

Buffalo led the establishment of Peace Hills Trust, the first and largest Indigenous-owned financial institution in Canada, which helps to ensure financial stability and support for future generations of Samson Cree. He was awarded the Alberta Order of Excellence in 2007 and Order of Canada in 2008, and received an honorary doctorate from UCalgary in 2016.

Register for Elders Teachings Series: Treaty Stories on Jan. 16, 12 to 1:30 p.m. in the Blue Room, Dining Centre, and hear stories from Crowshoe, Kaquitts and Buffalo. The second event in the series, Women’s Voices, is scheduled for March 13.

ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, is a commitment to deep evolutionary transformation by reimagining ways of knowing, doing, connecting and being. Walking parallel paths together, ‘in a good way,’ UCalgary is moving toward genuine reconciliation and Indigenization.