I love when the kids have class projects. I know from speaking to other parents that I am in the minority. To me it is an excellent opportunity for them to learn and for us to spend time together. I am really a big nerd, and I love to learn new things, especially history. All of our family vacations involve an educational aspect... because I'm a nerd. I want to pass along my love of learning to the kids.
This year Grace has to do a research project about a Canadian Native Peoples. She could easily go to the library and look at books, or she could go on the internet and research. She could do this, but would it be factual? History is recorded by the people who are in power, and it is from their perspective. History is not always fact, it is scud by the person or group writing it. Would it not be better to take your information from a reliable source?
We are very fortunate to have the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory and the Alderville First Nation so close by. The Tyendinaga Mohawk, are part of the Iroquois / Six Nations Confederacy and the Alderville First Nation are a band of Mississaugas, a sub-nation of the Ojibwas. I suggested to Grace that she ask her teacher if she could select one of these tribes to write her report on. We would be able to ask someone if they could take some time and speak to us about their tribe. Grace selected the Mohawk people.
I got into contact with the Tyendinaga Mohawk Council and asked if they might be able to suggest someone that Grace might speak to. We were referred to Lisa Maracle, and given her phone number and email address. Through email conversations we were able to arrange a time to meet. This was an amazing opportunity for Grace.
I have to admit to being a little nervous about speaking to this lady. It was so kind of her to set aside time, but I was nervous that I may say something insensitive. The European people came to North America and took everything that they wanted with no regard for the land itself, or the people who already lived here. They took what was not theirs to take, and doled out the leftovers to the rightful owners and expected them to be grateful. This is not an ancient history, in terms of time, it is just a short time ago. It was for this reason that it took me so long to attend a Pow Wow. I had wanted to take the kids for a long time, but I did not want to be an interloper. I was nervous, and yet when I went I was made to feel welcome, and we had a wonderful time!
It turns out that I had no reason to be the least bit nervous, Lisa Maracle was lovely and gracious, and very, very helpful. She answered all of Grace's questions and my own questions ( questions that had little to do with Grace's project, but were very interesting to me). She gave us a brief history of how the Mohawk's came to live in the Bay of Quinte region. She told us about how the Mohawk people had once lived in New York. They had decided to remain observers in the American Revolution. Eventually the Mohawk people sided with the British in that war. When the war was over, they did not feel comfortable or welcome in their own homeland. They made arrangements with the British to re-establish themselves in their fishing grounds of the Bay of Quinte. Some of the tribe made arrangements to settle in the now Brantford, Ontario. I sat there fascinated. I kept thinking about what she was telling us about her people, and then thinking about what I knew of Canadian history. I felt like I was really connecting the dots.
Grace and I had a wonderful afternoon, speaking to a really nice and helpful woman. I walked away with a better understanding of our neighbours, and Grace left with valuable information for her school project. Lisa gave us an hour and a half of her time, her very valuable time. Thank you Lisa. Thank you for your time, thank you for putting us at ease, thank you for sharing your culture.