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On this land

Sykes Powderface helps us understand the history of Treaty Seven lands as part of the Chinook Lodge Cultural Lecture Series.

In celebration of SAIT's centennial year, we've taken time to reflect on our past and celebrate where we've come from.

As part of that reflection, SAIT's Chinook Lodge is hosting a Cultural Lecture Series — to celebrate the history of our land and the peoples who were here and are still here today. Up next in the series is a look at the very land on which SAIT sits.

Long before we laid the cornerstone for Heritage Hall in 1921, and before SAIT's first principal Dr. J.C. Miller dreamt of an institute that would change the world through applied learning — the lives of Canada's first peoples played out on this land we call our home.

History informs the way forward

Prior to the 1800s, much of southern Alberta was the hunting grounds of the three tribes of the Blackfoot Nation — Kanai (Blood), Piikani (Peigan) and Siksika — as well as Stoney Nakoda and Tsuut'ina (Sarcee) tribes.

Stoney Nakoda's Sykes Powderface has devoted 40 years of his life to studying and researching Indigenous, Aboriginal and Treaty rights. He is known for his work in asserting Indigenous rights and the acknowledgement of Canada's first peoples and was appointed lead negotiator by the Chiefs of the Canada Constitution.

SAIT sat down with Powderface before his talk at SAIT to unpack the meaning of the Treaty in today's political landscape and how each of us can respect the history of our land.

The history of the Treaties and the relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Government of Canada can be difficult to understand. How do you break it down for people?

The first thing we need to know is the Treaty is about the land, the natural resources and the people. How do we share the land and the resources?

Secondly, we need to educate Canadians about the two different understandings of the Treaty, what was written and what the spirit of intent actually was, and go from there ... there has to be a mutual relationship.

Is there an example from other places in the world we can look to?

I spoke to Nelson Mandela about his fight to end apartheid.

He said, "Revenge is not in our system because we live by the same law of peace and friendship."

Do you remember that first year he was president? He asked the people who believed in apartheid to sit with him in government, side by side, so they could start rebuilding South Africa under a totally different relationship, which is working.

What is the traditional or spiritual connection Indigenous peoples have with the land?

When people have a problem understanding our spiritual relationship with the land, I ask them, "OK, how many of you have mothers? How well do you look after your mother or care for your mother?" That is why we call our relationship with the land mother earth — the life-giver. It provided for us, it nurtures us. It gives us life, food, air ... That's where most of our medicines come from. That's why we smudge, because that's how we honour the land on which we walk.

I challenge people to think of your mother. Would you just knock her down and walk all over her or would you show her some respect?

Learn more about Treaty Seven

Powderface will speak about the History of Treaty Seven on Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 4 pm at SAIT's Chinook Lodge, Senator Burns Building. The event is free and open to the public.

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