Facilitated Conversations

Talking Circle Sample: Aboriginal and Treaty Rights

Total Time: Approx. 75 minutes

Suitable for: Group Activity (maximum 20 participants) | Facilitator-led Activity

Talking circle may be adapted for use with any topic area in Walking Together. Word documents may be revised as needed.

The focus of this talking circle is to develop an appreciation of the complex perspectives and issues related to Aboriginal and treaty rights. Participants will have an opportunity to discover differing perspectives on Aboriginal and treaty rights and develop an appreciation for the complexity of this topic. Canada’s constitution (1982) recognizes three distinct groups of Aboriginal peoples, but each of these groups is diverse, including individuals with many different goals and priorities. Aboriginal and treaty rights stem from historical, traditional, cultural and spiritual connections to the lands occupied and shared by Indigenous peoples since time immemorial.

Participants view a chapter of a video of a teacher introducing treaties. In the first talking circle session, participants discuss the impact of treaties on non-Aboriginals. Before a second talking circle session, participants view six short videos of Elders speaking on treaties. In the talking circle, participants discuss treaties from a First Nations, Métis or Inuit perspective and consider the impact of treaties on their students and school communities.

Activity 1: Talking Circle on Treaties from a Non-Aboriginal Perspective

Time: Approx. 30 minutes

Handout: Talking Circle: Fact Sheet Word

Provide each participant with the handout and review the guidelines.

As a whole group, watch Chapter 1 (approx. 4 minutes) of the video Treaties located in the Observing Practice section of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights topic area. In the video, Grade 9 Social Studies teacher Charlene Bearhead introduces the topic of treaties by asking students these questions: What is a treaty? Why do they exist? Who is involved in the treaty?

Use a talking circle to share the ways you believe these treaties, governance and rights issues affect non-Aboriginal people.

Activity 2: View Videos from Respecting Wisdom

Time: Approx. 30 minutes

Show the whole group the videos in the order they appear in the Respecting Wisdom section of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. Ask participants to hold their comments until they are in the talking circle.

Audrey Weasel Traveller (2:18 minutes) Elder Audrey Weasel Traveller, Piikani Nation, shares her perspective on the various terms used to identify Indigenous peoples. For example, some of the terms used throughout the years include Indian, Native, First Nations, Indigenous and Aboriginal. She states that these terms are “a creation of politics.”

Billy Joe Laboucan (1:45 minutes) Cree Elder Billy Joe Laboucan, Lubicon Lake Nation, discusses how treaties among the Indigenous tribes took place long before the arrival of the newcomers. He provides an example of a treaty made between the Cree and the Beaver people.

Andrew Bear Robe (5:00 minutes) Elder Dr. Andrew Bear Robe, Siksika Nation, describes the Aboriginal perspectives of treaties as looking at them as “organic” and “living” documents. In contrast, Canadian governments from 1967 to today see them as “dormant” or “sleeping” documents. His “wish list” is for the federal government to host a First Ministers’ conference on Aboriginal and treaty rights. He sees potential in youth leadership programs that can teach the complexities of Aboriginal and treaty rights.

Theresa Strawberry (4:45 minutes) Saulteaux Elder Theresa Strawberry, O’Chiese First Nation, provides the relatively recent history of treaty negotiations between her people and the federal government over a piece of land known as Medicine Lake, where her people historically held ceremonies. She points out the miscommunication and misinterpretations that took place at the signing of the treaties. Her people have always understood the treaties to be in effect “as long as the rivers flow, the sun shines and the grass grows.”

Phyllis Collins (2:09 minutes) Métis Elder Phyllis Collins, Elizabeth Settlement, shares her experiences of working as a councillor on the Métis Settlements Act in Alberta. She compares the time it took to work out the details for that act to the time it took for the federal and provincial governments to agree on their relationship.

John Janvier (9:06 minutes) Dene Suliné Elder John Janvier, Cold Lake First Nations, gives his interpretation of the “spirit and intent” of the treaties. His father became a chief at the age of 30 years in 1930. At that time, his father still had contact with the Elders who were physically present at the signing of Treaty 6. Therefore, he has heard many first-hand accounts of what exactly was said and meant regarding the treaty negotiations.

Facilitators may want to review basic facts about the treaties in Alberta. Additional information may be found in the Exploring Connections section of Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. Basic facts include the following:

  • Alberta’s traditional territories are now known as Treaty 6, Treaty 7 and Treaty 8.
  • Each Alberta area’s treaty was signed prior to 1905.
  • In Alberta there are six Métis zones, represented by the Métis Nation of Alberta and eight Métis settlements, administered by the Métis Settlements General Council.
  • Alberta is the only province where Métis have a land base enshrined in the provincial constitution.

Activity 3: Talking Circle on Treaties from a First Nation, Métis or Inuit Perspective

Time: Approx. 15 minutes

Review the guidelines outlined in the handout Fact Sheet: Talking Circles. Ask participants to use those guidelines to discuss their responses to these questions:

  • What do you feel is the key point the Elders are presenting in the Respecting Wisdom segments?
  • How do you see the issues surrounding treaties, governance and rights affecting your school community?