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What The Settler Learned | October 2023


Michael Green hard at work on MT7 1.0

A short reflection from our Executive Director and Resident Settler, Neil Fleming.

I decided to start writing this blog to share with my friends in the non-Indigenous community, some of the things I have learned in my time working with Making Treaty 7. I know that the “algorithms” that control our newsfeeds will generally omit anything Indigenous unless you specifically show some interest. Here’s me taking a step toward garnering some of that interest from you…

 

Well I guess I've been a bit busy as I haven't posted one of these since February 2022?!

We have been very busy, but I'll save the details of that for another post...


Today I am excited to announce the relaunch of our streaming platform "Ika'kimaat" This has been in the works for some time and I'm pleased to say it is now up and running. There will be a few things that need addressing and adjusting I'm sure, but it is officially out in the world and I hope you consider subscribing.


When I first started working with Making Treaty 7, it was with Kelli Morning Bull, who taught me many many things about the Blackfoot people and this territory. You can catch Kelli dropping some truth bombs in this short film we produced together called Treaty Money, but we really got together in 2017 to make a documentary about MT7 and the result was Innaihtsiiyisinnii - which is Blackfoot for "making treaty".


Part of the process of making this film was to watch the archived videos of the original Elder consultations from 2012-2013. Micheal Green was hoping create a "pageant" of stories about Treaty 7 and so several Elders gatherings were organized in order to get things right. There are literally hours and hours of video of Elders and artists from across Southern Alberta, sharing their thoughts on creating a performance that tells the story of Treaty 7 from the stories passed down through the oral traditions of the people.


I remember a key moment for me was when Kainai Elder Frank Weasel Head said, "You'll have to forgive me, because English is not my first language." Wait, what?! It had never sunk in for me before that there are languages that are 1000's of years old that predate me and my English ancestors on this territory by many millennia. And I don't often get to use that word in a sentence that refers to myself. English was his second language!


As we were making the documentary, our editor and myself (the two white guys) learned so much from watching those videos, that we couldn't help but think that other settlers, new-comers and Indigenous people from outside of this territory should have the opportunity to learn as we did. And so the idea of building an online platform was born.


These Elders consultations are paired with the performances created by the Making Treaty 7 artists as they filtered those stories through their various artistic disciplines - poetry, drama, dance and song. You can witness the beginnings and the evolution of Making Treaty 7. Adding to this is the ongoing demand from local teachers for engaging and informative Indigenous content which has really pushed us to try to build something special.


Now - here's the best part. Subscribing to Ika'kimaat is literally also helping us keep the lights on at Making Treaty 7. The nature of arts funding is still unpredictable, so having and means to provide a service (learning) for a nominal coast (subscription) alleviates some of our reliance on grant funding and pays for our overhead and operating costs.


But it mainly pays for the Elders whose recordings we have posted, and the Indigenous filmmakers who are standing by to create even more awesome content.


Ika'kimaat is the Blackfoot word that means "try hard" or "persevere". It is the closest thing that I have heard to capture the spirit of Reconciliation. For my fellow settlers out there - for that is what we are - we need to dig deep and sit in that guilt brought upon by the society our ancestors have created. We need to do better. Reconciliation is on us.


If you're looking for a place to start (or continue) your learning journey, please subscribe.




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