Treaty Workshops with David D Plain
(2017 – 2018)
While I had long tapped into author David D Plain’s knowledge about his home community of the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, we had not formally collaborated until July 2017 when Aamjiwnaang Heritage & Culture: E’Maawizidijig asked us to present together for “Treaty Day.” Realizing our respective knowledge bases complemented each other perfectly, we soon partnered on a two-day training workshop for a local school board. Since then, we have hosted longer training workshops with other school boards, and shorter workshops with universities, with high school and elementary students, with cultural institutions, and with First Nations.
The Treaty Workshops featured custom agendas that targeted both Indigenous and non-Indigenous participants of all ages and fused traditional oral storytelling with interactive mapping, animations, and videos. We discussed wampum treaties, cession treaties, and the various ways the treaties were broken.
The goal of the workshops was to “connect the dots” between historical events of the past, the Canadian legal system, and present-day issues that teachers may find themselves discussing with their students.
David’s voice was predominant in the first half of the workshops as he discussed Indigenous spirituality, ceremonies, and traditions before leading into waterways and canoe routes. While David told the Anishinaabeg migration story and later struggles with other contending First Nations and colonial powers, I mapped his story in real-time using Google Earth. David then discussed various wars and the different wampum exchanged to end them, sharing physical items like a replica Two Row wampum and a calumet.
I used maps to explain colonization through the land agreements known as cession or “surrender” treaties. I also discussed the ways the Department of Indian Affairs broke the treaties, such as through Indian Act surrenders, the Oliver Act, and enfranchisement. Data visualization was used to explain complicated concepts, such as Aboriginal title and the structure of the Department of Indian Affairs.
Equal weight was given to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous knowledge, with comparisons drawn between worldviews as told through the Anishinaabe and Western creation stories. I often referred back to David’s portion of the workshops to stress how archival research and traditional knowledge can dovetail and support each other. The workshops ended with the topics of decolonization, reconciliation, and world-building.
David and I didn’t anticipate just how popular the workshops would become. We soon found ourselves traveling across Southwestern Ontario and received requests from as far away as Thunder Bay and Ottawa. The constant travel understandably became too much for David, so we decided to continue the workshops separately so we could have more flexibility. Since then, David has focused on Indigenous culture workshops with school boards closer to his home on the Aamjiwnaang First Nation, while I’ve conducted workshops that focus on cession treaties and the Indian Act.
We also continue to work together on other creative endeavors, such as a 360-degree documentary on waterways that we filmed with the Public Visualization Lab. A launch date for that film will be coming soon!