‘Two Acres and a Cow’ Article Summary

The article ‘Two Acres and a Cow: ‘Peasant’ Farming for the Indians of the Northwest, 1889-97’ written by Sarah Carter is a well-documented account of public colonial policy during the title years in the area of modern Saskatchewan. Back then the province did not exist so it was the Northwest Territories.

The main issues that Carter highlights extensively are regulatory practices which hampered, regressed and discriminated against those of indigenous peoples of the area who were beginning to practice farming. During this time indigenous farmers commonly came together in groups deemed the ‘tribal’ system (also called communist at the time on page 30) which directly competed with newly settled white pioneers from the east.

Reserves under certain bands, part of the ‘tribal’ system, maintained large cultivation fields which also enhanced the indigenous production into the new grain markets springing up around the territory. Competition for the newly arrived white farmers which, under normal standards, were held under an ‘individualistic’ ideal of the independent and self-sufficient homesteader model which the colonial commissioner has so vehemently championed.

As a way to curtail the pooling of resources by the bands in the territory, Hayter Reed, the commissioner in question, forwarded anti-indigenous agriculture policy in the form of the titled ‘Peasant Farming Policy’. The other aims in the area was to bring ‘civilization’ to the perceived local ‘barbarians’ as seen on page 34. As Carter describes on the same page, “The Indians were perceived to be many stages removed from the nineteenth-century civilization, and while they could take the next step forward, they could not miss the steps in between.”

Such racist and very often discrimination of indigenous peoples at the time by both the colonial government and local settlers is what lead, in part, to large-scale land sales by reserves to the government because of the hostile policies enacted upon them. As the policy suggests, a classical sense of peasant would be self-sufficient and maintain a relatively small amount of land to use for their own sustenance with little to no machinery. In many ways ‘Two Acres and a Cow.’ As such, machinery once used widely as a collective by indigenous peoples was off-limits with additional labour requirements coming from the reserves.

Widespread complaints by the indigenous people was common and Reed knew very well of their growing concerns by completely ignoring their claims even by his own staff which oversaw the indigenous farming practice. At the time indigenous farming was regulated in the field by agents and instructors of the state which helped the bands to farm. Reed labeled his staff as on page 45, “… they [staff] were inclined to be too lenient with the Indians” later saying that, “Indians and their overseers prefer to take the method easiest for themselves…” which goes to show the mindset of the commissioner towards those of indigenous descent.

As previously stated, with such grossly hampering conditions imposed to the indigenous farmers crops routinely failed due to poor weather conditions in those decades on top of the overly burdensome laws. Too much land with only the use of hand tools to collect the crops meant that not enough time was available at harvest. This ultimately means that crops overgrew and were lost if not collected on-time. Indigenous farmers felt like the system was totally against them and that is because it very much was has Carter explains in the article. The objective underlying all the ‘independent’ and ‘sufficient’ talk about the indigenous folks was government attempt to break up the farming bands discussed previously.

Carter states that John A. MacDonald loved the idea of severalty (individual) farmers as it was a means of acquiring surplus land from the reserves which would help initiate widespread settlement of the west. These kinds of policies and discrimination actively regressed the indigenous farming initiatives in the late 19th century. Indigenous people were effectively uprooted in any attempt to be efficient farmers in ways with many previous farmers opting out and quitting the profession altogether. In essence, MacDonald and Reed got what they wanted with independent homesteaders of the white variety with much surplus land from those areas surrounding reserves. Carter highlights that early indigenous efforts to farm were very successful but with obscuring laws these efforts were crushed. This article perfectly summarizes Canada’s institutional racism and systemic discrimination toward indigenous people in the hopes, I would imagine, to bring awareness to those issues of the past so that they can be avoided in the present and future.

ECS 110 Journal 2: What is Home?

To many home is a personal and near-and-dear aspect that can have positive and negative emotions tied to it. For me the thought of home is largely positive.

What I consider to be home is the City of Regina. It may not look like much but to me it is the place I went to school for my whole life, where my immediate family is located, and where my girlfriend lives along with my friends, and where the weather can over weekend shift by 30 degrees in either direction for better or for worse. If all of these feelings and appreciations were gone then this ‘home’ would be shell of its former self.

A particular story would involve me getting my long-time part-time job way back in 2010. Being hired for retail work at the end of high school was common for kids my age and often times me and some of my peers would work at the same company. Over time however, there was a demographic change in the city which you could tell by the workers in some of these companies like the one I worked at. Regina has become more multi-cultural which is a good thing to me because I make friends, in some situations, very easily. To this day I have a very good friend who happens to be from India because he was hired to work at the same company I was at and that is in part to Regina/ Canada changing immigration. This is one way in which my home has changed for the better.

ECS 110 Journal 1: Making Connections

My task this week is to chose a passage/ story to connect with and that is what I will attempt to do right now.

Throughout my educations classes (I only started last year) I had always heard about the ‘Earth is on the back of a turtle’ sort of creation story. I have seen it at the museum seen art with it and what not but had never sat down and actually hear why that all is. This story about Charm and her bringing to world into being resonates with me because it is in some parallel with the creation story of Christianity. The author would point this out later in the excerpt from his chapter but in that moment and having been raised Catholic (but am no longer) I saw how desirable this creation story is to that of the Genesis in the Bible/ Old Testament.

The concepts of cooperation as the author describes between Charm, her twins and the animals are better for a creation story then God making everything leading to the banishment later on.

Now having heard the creation story associated with the turtle and Charm I can help elucidate many others to its true meaning and again tell the story of the ‘Woman Who Fell From The Sky’ so that those people would not be confused as to its meaning.

Memories of bias

Based on my upbringing in the the Regina Catholic School system, the question of ‘how to read the world’ is usually entrenched into the students early on. As with most things young kids are definitely impressionable and those bias that exist can manifest into those young minds. Those kid can then exert those bias onto other, which if they are their own peer(s), then they are reflected back and reinforced to continue.

I have a large science background and in high school I attended many a class based on some scientific subjects (ie. biology or chemistry). Bias in the form of western scientific thought through the English language is the only means of curriculum transmission. No thought of other ways of knowing or passing knowledge. This is especially true on the near complete lack of Indigenous content during my high school experience.

For a long time, up till recently, new courses I am involved with have brought out a different way of understanding how people can learn and teach. As a BEAD student I never before had thought of differing teaching methods or methodologies and finding out the inner workings of the craft has shed some appropriate light on the subject matter.

My bias are clear. I have a bias in favor of the methods I was taught growing up in high school. Getting away from a transmission focus-based teaching and adding other competencies into science can be a initial step towards bettering my practice of teaching. Interfacing Indigenous content where possible can also be a significant step as its incorporation I find is lacking. Treaty education helps and benefits all people and striving to teach towards reconciliation is key. Something I was not taught but am eager to teach.

When 1 plus 1 equals 1: rethinking mathematics for indigenous populations

In many cases math class is, or was, essentially the exact same for everybody. Counting and measuring were all integrated in a base-10 system drilled into our heads from the moment we can speak and articulate with our hands.  Mathematics is not a ‘universal’ language but rather a cultural construct used by different people over different times. Which is not to say that a base-10 structure of mathematics is wrong but it is the disposition that everyone can easily learn to use that way of thinking.

As mentioned, different cultures learn to use numbers in somewhat similar ways but with alternate foundations. Counting for the Inuit is done in a base-20 model in which 20 and 400 are very important numbers. As a way of thinking of it easier for me, a number say 30 is just 3 sets of 10 or in the Inuit system a set of 20 and a 10, which would a half set. There is still the same number but the groupings of numbers is differentiated through language.

Inuit language is not only the key to understanding the Inuit methods of math but also a indicator of time and space itself. Time is seen in a spatial sense in relation to the animals and weather/ climate around the community and the corresponding area in the year. The Western sense of years, seasons, and months are fixed and imposed on the rest of the world with the exception of some religious calendars. Unique words with the aforementioned suffixes are seen for even the perception of symbols on the landscapes of the northern Tundra.

In English, different words exist for different things but that is in stark contrast to how Inuit language is spoken. Language and addition math are used in conjunction when using simple words like ‘hole’. In Inuit, many differing objects like pineapple and lace use the original Inuit word for ‘hole’ because the language is derived by adding suffixes of words together.

Better understanding the Inuit can only ensure that they get quality education in mathematics. They seem to particularly excel in spatial awareness and deriving meaning from the environment. Tools and expressions that they, in turn, use to form their understanding of mathematical knowledge. Very interesting concepts.

 

we are all treaty people

In essence, teaching about Treaties brings about a shared understanding. Coming together to commonalities so that perspectives can be voiced and understood being the main goal. Learning about the history of Canada cannot be properly done without interfacing Indigenous content. Cynthia Chambers describes learning about Treaties as a matter of learning each others stories and furthering the relationships between the various peoples of this land. That is why everyone should be taught about Treaties as it encompasses us all even if not everyone of different ancestry is present.

For curriculum understanding I would find it worthwhile to interface Indigenous content and aspects of Truth and Reconciliation into the classroom setting. In class discussions about the resources and land that we occupy, class work either individual or group, bringing in elders and story-tellers, and cultural practices like round dances and smudging among other things can all be used as a springboard to help students to learn. But not only to learn about different people but to learn that they too belong and are welcomed within these circles.

Treaty Education Camp was a very good experience to be apart of. The Keynote speech helped me understand some of the issues regrading government land appropriation for mineral and resource extraction. Aspects like this went towards my Earth Science 30 critique. I found that the comic/ science fiction/ video games media presentation with infusions of creative writing and story telling through the lens of Indigenous thought was very good as well. These types of media are nearly ubiquitous in modern culture and the students may like to delve into interesting reading or media presentations with Indigenous twists.

What is important for your students is that they take away that Treaties are not just about Indigenous peoples it is about, what Chambers states, ‘old-timers’ and ‘newcomers’. We are all Treaty People so celebrating this element can further our progress towards T and R.