Caption: Students get hands-on learning about traditional indigenous weaving
Earlier this month, both indigenous and non-indigenous secondary students from across Grand Erie gathered to participate in part one of a three-part conference series, Living the Two Row. The importance of pursuing dreams, maintaining a healthy mind, body, and spirit, connecting through song and dance, and the historical implications of the first treaties were among the key themes of the day.
Among those who spoke was Leroy Jock Hill, a Haudenosaunee faithkeeper and council secretary who serves as a lingual and cultural advisor to numerous departments and organizations for the Six Nations Confederacy. Hill explained the significance of the very first treaty established in North America, the dish with one spoon. This treaty was founded between indigenous nations, predating European contact, and remains today. It is a covenant with nature to abide by three rules: take only what you need from the dish, leave something in the dish for everyone else, and always keep the dish clean.
Musical performances included singer-songwriter Lacey Hill, a renowned acoustic musician whose songs feature empowering indigenous themes, and Lance Logan-Keye, a youth justice worker and member of the Singing Society, who asked for volunteers to help demonstrate the cultural importance of connecting through song and dance. Volunteers either grabbed a rhythm instrument, or joined hands forming a circle to perform a rendition of a traditional Haudenosaunee round dance.
Rick Monture, who will be resuming his position as director of Indigenous Studies at McMaster University this fall, finished the conference by tracing the lineage of Six Nations land treaties. The brief history lesson focused on the October 1784 acquisition of land by Joseph Brant and his comrades after the American Revolution. They were granted six miles on either side of the Grand River, an agreement that remains as relevant today as in the past.
During the day of learning, students were invited to participate in a variety of engaging, interactive activities, including traditional weaving. Students flocked to a photo booth to take pictures with indigenous wampum belts and other artifacts.
Stacy Hill, Native Advisor for Grand Erie and coordinator of Living the Two Row, said the conference was a way to bring together indigenous and non-indigenous communities under the label Treaty People. With both communities participating, new opportunities for reconciliation can be found, Hill noted.
“We are all treaty people, and we all walk this road together,” Hill explained. “These are not just indigenous issues, but all of our issues.”
The second installment of Living the Two Row will include presentations and workshops specifically for indigenous students, with a sharper focus on land and settlement issues. Select students will put together a media presentation for the professional development of all Grand Erie staff during the final phase of the series.