It's the second annual Treaties Recognition week in Ontario and students in Thunder Bay are taking advantage of a variety of presentations. The Canadian Roots Exchange, a not-for-profit organization which teaches about Indigenous reconciliation and treaties, ran workshops at Hammarskjold High School Tuesday.
"The intended goal of this is to raise awareness so the more kids we get to, the more dinner conversations change, the more awareness that's raised and you'll slowly start to see a shift take place," said Ashley Nurmela, the First Nation, Inuit and Metis liaison officer for Lakehead Public Schools.
Devin Peterson and Pamela Angees are team leads for the Canadian Roots Exchange youth reconciliation initiative in Thunder Bay. They began the workshop by asking students to tell each other where they're from. The pair explained that some of the students had attended more than one session.
"This is almost their first glimpse into a lot of treaty talk, a lot of reconciliation talk," said Peterson. "I feel like they've just been taking it all in and a lot of them have been saying that they have learned a lot and they're really thankful for learning more and continuing this education."
According to the Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada website, treaties are agreements between the Crown and Indigenous people where the Crown would take over the rights to an area of land in exchange for things such as annual payments and certain rights to hunt and fish on the land,
Modern day treaties, or those made after 1923, are called Comprehensive Land Claim Settlements.
Treaties can seem complicated to many people said Peterson because of the language that is used to discuss them and the meaning can differ, depending on your perception.
"Treaties to a lot of the European settler… was about ownership of the land, where the people living here before all the Europeans came over, the land wasn't something that was owned, it was something that was respected, that was shared, that was a living thing that was meant to pass down generations," said Peterson.
Peterson and Angees talked to students about written and oral treaties and physical treaties like the Wampum Belt. They also talked about historical agreements such as the Indian Act and how it affects Indigenous people today.
"Mutual respect and understanding is a big part of it," said Constance Nowgesic, a teacher at Hammarskjold High School.