We are all treaty people

Opinion Oct 08, 2020 by Aaron Gerrard Ancaster News

Recently I watched the viral video of 26-year-old Indigenous man, Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse, eloquently interrupt the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new southwest perimeter highway in Calgary. The highway is built over Tsuut’ina First Nation land, part of Treaty 7 (1877).

Dodginghorse remarked, “Today is not a good day.” He remembered the trails, trees, and the paths he used to know by memory — all gone. Concluding his speech in a moving gesture of mourning, agony, and respect, he cut his long dark braids off, leaving them lying on the freshly paved road.

“We lived here, we grew up here, we touched this land.”

As I listened to Dodginghorse my mind went to Wendell Berry’s quintessential 1968 essay entitled, A Native Hill. In the essay Berry reflects on the seemingly unexplainable connection he has to his farmland in Kentucky.

“Why should I love one place so much more than any other? What could be the meaning or use of such love?”

But he notes great tensions as he reflects on his ownership and love of his land.

“I am forever being crept up on and newly startled by the realization that my people established themselves here by killing or driving out the original possessors…so here, in the place I love more than any other and where I have chosen among all other places to live my life, I am more painfully divided within myself than I could be in any other place.”

He goes on. The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation…A road, on the other hand, even the most primitive road, embodies a resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste…It is destructive, seeking to remove or destroy all obstacles in its way.

All of which takes me back to Dodginghorse’s words: “I remember the day I saw all the trees knocked down. These were the trees I played in, that my Tsuut’ina grandmothers played in. I knew all the trails and all the animal trails…Have you ever felt upset in your local community when one of the trees was knocked down? Have you ever felt upset when one of the houses was knocked down? This is something that affects my family, and I need you to know that.”

The story of land negotiations, treaty rights, and controversies is not new. It is a broken, shameful, complicated, and oft-repeated part of our colonial-settler history. It rages right now in our own backyard near Caledonia. But my intention in this writing is not to discuss who is right and who is wrong in these disputes, but rather as a way of reminding myself to reflect and learn about these issues. We are all treaty people.

Much space has been given calling to attention the need to protect Ancaster’s history. I applaud this and those working tirelessly in support. I believe these things matter. But I cannot help but connect this issue to those similarly raised by our Indigenous neighbours.

When history is erased, whether haphazardly or in the name of progress, we hurt. It does not matter if you are a settler or Indigenous. Yet for me and my fellow settlers, we too often forget that our history is not the first history of this land. Our development has been made on someone else’s land. Treaty 3 (1792) land, to be exact. The agreement in that treaty states that the King’s subjects will have free unhindered travel and be able to make roads through this territory. I cannot help but reflect on the words of Berry and Dodginghourse.

And so it is that Indigenous peoples on these lands have lived through generations of watching trees cut down and land developed, with each time a little bit of their history erased. As we work to remember and safeguard the history of Ancaster, let us not forget that we should owe the same commitment to our Indigenous hosts.

– Rev. Aaron Gerrard is the Pastor at Ancaster Village Church.

We are all treaty people

When history is erased, we hurt, writes Aaron Gerrard

Opinion Oct 08, 2020 by Aaron Gerrard Ancaster News

Recently I watched the viral video of 26-year-old Indigenous man, Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse, eloquently interrupt the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new southwest perimeter highway in Calgary. The highway is built over Tsuut’ina First Nation land, part of Treaty 7 (1877).

Dodginghorse remarked, “Today is not a good day.” He remembered the trails, trees, and the paths he used to know by memory — all gone. Concluding his speech in a moving gesture of mourning, agony, and respect, he cut his long dark braids off, leaving them lying on the freshly paved road.

“We lived here, we grew up here, we touched this land.”

As I listened to Dodginghorse my mind went to Wendell Berry’s quintessential 1968 essay entitled, A Native Hill. In the essay Berry reflects on the seemingly unexplainable connection he has to his farmland in Kentucky.

Related Content

“Why should I love one place so much more than any other? What could be the meaning or use of such love?”

But he notes great tensions as he reflects on his ownership and love of his land.

“I am forever being crept up on and newly startled by the realization that my people established themselves here by killing or driving out the original possessors…so here, in the place I love more than any other and where I have chosen among all other places to live my life, I am more painfully divided within myself than I could be in any other place.”

He goes on. The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation…A road, on the other hand, even the most primitive road, embodies a resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste…It is destructive, seeking to remove or destroy all obstacles in its way.

All of which takes me back to Dodginghorse’s words: “I remember the day I saw all the trees knocked down. These were the trees I played in, that my Tsuut’ina grandmothers played in. I knew all the trails and all the animal trails…Have you ever felt upset in your local community when one of the trees was knocked down? Have you ever felt upset when one of the houses was knocked down? This is something that affects my family, and I need you to know that.”

The story of land negotiations, treaty rights, and controversies is not new. It is a broken, shameful, complicated, and oft-repeated part of our colonial-settler history. It rages right now in our own backyard near Caledonia. But my intention in this writing is not to discuss who is right and who is wrong in these disputes, but rather as a way of reminding myself to reflect and learn about these issues. We are all treaty people.

Much space has been given calling to attention the need to protect Ancaster’s history. I applaud this and those working tirelessly in support. I believe these things matter. But I cannot help but connect this issue to those similarly raised by our Indigenous neighbours.

When history is erased, whether haphazardly or in the name of progress, we hurt. It does not matter if you are a settler or Indigenous. Yet for me and my fellow settlers, we too often forget that our history is not the first history of this land. Our development has been made on someone else’s land. Treaty 3 (1792) land, to be exact. The agreement in that treaty states that the King’s subjects will have free unhindered travel and be able to make roads through this territory. I cannot help but reflect on the words of Berry and Dodginghourse.

And so it is that Indigenous peoples on these lands have lived through generations of watching trees cut down and land developed, with each time a little bit of their history erased. As we work to remember and safeguard the history of Ancaster, let us not forget that we should owe the same commitment to our Indigenous hosts.

– Rev. Aaron Gerrard is the Pastor at Ancaster Village Church.

We are all treaty people

When history is erased, we hurt, writes Aaron Gerrard

Opinion Oct 08, 2020 by Aaron Gerrard Ancaster News

Recently I watched the viral video of 26-year-old Indigenous man, Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse, eloquently interrupt the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the new southwest perimeter highway in Calgary. The highway is built over Tsuut’ina First Nation land, part of Treaty 7 (1877).

Dodginghorse remarked, “Today is not a good day.” He remembered the trails, trees, and the paths he used to know by memory — all gone. Concluding his speech in a moving gesture of mourning, agony, and respect, he cut his long dark braids off, leaving them lying on the freshly paved road.

“We lived here, we grew up here, we touched this land.”

As I listened to Dodginghorse my mind went to Wendell Berry’s quintessential 1968 essay entitled, A Native Hill. In the essay Berry reflects on the seemingly unexplainable connection he has to his farmland in Kentucky.

Related Content

“Why should I love one place so much more than any other? What could be the meaning or use of such love?”

But he notes great tensions as he reflects on his ownership and love of his land.

“I am forever being crept up on and newly startled by the realization that my people established themselves here by killing or driving out the original possessors…so here, in the place I love more than any other and where I have chosen among all other places to live my life, I am more painfully divided within myself than I could be in any other place.”

He goes on. The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation…A road, on the other hand, even the most primitive road, embodies a resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste…It is destructive, seeking to remove or destroy all obstacles in its way.

All of which takes me back to Dodginghorse’s words: “I remember the day I saw all the trees knocked down. These were the trees I played in, that my Tsuut’ina grandmothers played in. I knew all the trails and all the animal trails…Have you ever felt upset in your local community when one of the trees was knocked down? Have you ever felt upset when one of the houses was knocked down? This is something that affects my family, and I need you to know that.”

The story of land negotiations, treaty rights, and controversies is not new. It is a broken, shameful, complicated, and oft-repeated part of our colonial-settler history. It rages right now in our own backyard near Caledonia. But my intention in this writing is not to discuss who is right and who is wrong in these disputes, but rather as a way of reminding myself to reflect and learn about these issues. We are all treaty people.

Much space has been given calling to attention the need to protect Ancaster’s history. I applaud this and those working tirelessly in support. I believe these things matter. But I cannot help but connect this issue to those similarly raised by our Indigenous neighbours.

When history is erased, whether haphazardly or in the name of progress, we hurt. It does not matter if you are a settler or Indigenous. Yet for me and my fellow settlers, we too often forget that our history is not the first history of this land. Our development has been made on someone else’s land. Treaty 3 (1792) land, to be exact. The agreement in that treaty states that the King’s subjects will have free unhindered travel and be able to make roads through this territory. I cannot help but reflect on the words of Berry and Dodginghourse.

And so it is that Indigenous peoples on these lands have lived through generations of watching trees cut down and land developed, with each time a little bit of their history erased. As we work to remember and safeguard the history of Ancaster, let us not forget that we should owe the same commitment to our Indigenous hosts.

– Rev. Aaron Gerrard is the Pastor at Ancaster Village Church.