Marking Indigenous history
By Jenn Watt
Published June 19, 2018
One of the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of 2015 is for the Canadian education system to provide better teaching about Indigenous issues.
“Developing and implementing kindergarten to Grade 12 curriculum and learning resources on Aboriginal peoples in Canadian history, and the history and legacy of residential schools” is one subsection of 94 action items identified.
Last week, Trillium Lakelands District School Board decided that, along with ongoing programming, it would implement land acknowledgements at formal ceremonies in the coming school year. These acknowledgements typically contain a few sentences read aloud before an event to recognize the history of the land.
The wording for the TLDSB region states: “Trillium Lakelands District School Board acknowledges that these lands and waters are the traditional homeland of the Ojibway Nation and the Huron/Wendat Nation, and now includes communities from the Mohawk Nation, the Pottawatomi Nation and the Métis Nation of Ontario. We acknowledge their stewardship throughout the ages.”
These kinds of statements can be – or can become – a token gesture, well-meaning, but largely ignored. Which is why it’s heartening to see that the board is including this as one small step of many toward better education and understanding of the history of this country and region.
Local history is not broadly known in general and the specifics of Indigenous peoples in the area now known as the Haliburton Highlands even less so.
Knowing history has obvious benefits: giving context to our current political and social environment, helping us to empathize with others, and informing future decision making. Yet for the most part we are woefully under-educated on what took place on this land only a few hundred years ago.
The history is actually so recent that there are trees in our forests that can help tell the story. These marker trees, also known as miikan tig, were fastened to the ground as saplings in a way that created a distinctive shape as they grew, similar to the number four. The best way to see examples is to do a Google search of “marker trees.”
These trees were used to mark the paths of Indigenous people who traversed Ontario, including this region, and some still exist today.
It’s a piece of local history you can see, touch and wonder at.
The Haliburton Highlands Museum is in the process of documenting these miikan tig and would love to hear from those who think they’ve seen one.
They are also expanding their materials on Indigenous history with the help of Trent University graduate, Curve Lake resident and artist David Beaucage Johnson, who has done new research on local Indigenous history.
His talk at the U-Links Celebration of Research earlier this year was so popular that the museum has asked him to speak again.
Beaucage Johnson will be doing a talk on Saturday, June 23 at 2 p.m. on the topic of Indigenous settlement in the county.
Aside from being an engaging presenter, his work is important for anyone who wants to know more about the history of the land we live on today.