Miskawsowin- The Gap

I grew up in the Big Muddy Badlands in Southern Saskatchewan. The beautiful land is rich in history that has been shared with me through various tours, oral stories, and written histories. I have also been able to share the stories through my own tours.

My parents’ ranch is full of teepee rings and other First Nations artefacts. In the north pastures, we can see remains of summer camps. They have teepee rings in circles. In one particular place, the rings surrounded a pile of rocks that turned out to be an oven filled with tools. In the southern pastures, in the valleys, we find winter camps with double teepee rings indicative of the use of two canvases. My community also has a buffalo jump, a turtle effigy and a buffalo effigy which are common tourist attractions.

We talk lots about the First Nations people who occupied the land we now live on and we have made educated guesses on how they lived. However, we still do not know much about them. For example, I do not know the bands or the linguistic categories of the first nations people who lived there.

When we talk about the history of the area, there is a large gap in the stories. We talk about the First Nations people from time immemorial. Then we talk about the outlaws and the first pioneers. We do not talk about colonization.

There are currently no First Nations within two hundred kilometers from my home. In fact, there are only one or two people who identify as indigenous in our community. Yet we do not discuss what happened to the First Nations people who lived there for centuries before us.

My visual

My visual represents the gap I feel in the history of my community. I have asked a few people from home and they are noticing that gap even in their education.  

The left side represents the time before colonization. The right side represents the history The white space represents the parts we do not talk about.

I would like to think of myself, as a future educator, I can be the bridge between this gap. I would like to learn enough about the local history and about the treaties so that I am able to fill this gap in our stories. I do realize that will take a lot of work and will not be comfortable, but it is necessary.

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Miskasowin: Naming Myself

“Hello! I’m Shyla Froshaug and I’m from a Big Beaver, Saskatchewan.”

This is the scripted line I have nervously recited to introduce myself. The line I have nervously rehearsed in my head preparing for my turn on that dreaded first day of class introductions. I have even learned how to recite this line in Cree to introduce myself in my Cree language classes.

 

Tansi! Shyla Froshaug e-isiyihkasoyan. Big Beaver niya ohchi.

 

This is the line I have used to name myself. The hardest part is waiting for my turn to introduce myself and hoping I will not jumble my words and mess it up. The most complex part is the fact I technically live equal distance from two small towns and therefore have to decide whether I am from Minton or Big Beaver.

Easy!

Except maybe it isn’t that easy.

I have started to understand that a side effect of my privilege is that I am afforded the flexibility to not recognize parts of my identity. Huge segments that make me who I am have gone unnamed. In the book Indigenous Write, Vowel (2016) points out “ there really are no . . . terms with which to refer to the “non-indigenous peoples living in Canada who are from the European-descended socio-political majority” (14). This, of course, represents me, and before being exposed to different minority groups and discussions of equality, I had not realized that I needed a term to define my identity in this way.

 

So let me try that again

 

“Hello! My name is Shyla Froshaug. I am a cisgender,  female, heterosexual, treaty 4 resident, white, settler descendant from Big Beaver, Saskatchewan.

 

There are a few issues with this version of my introduction. First of all, I don’t like saying the ten words from my original introduction! There is no way I would confidently say all of that without eating my tongue!

Second, these words that are meant to identify me, make me feel guilty. I feel guilty that I did not know what cisgender meant until very recently. I feel guilty that as a capable woman I have chosen a career that is dominated by females instead of branching out into one of the many occupations I would have been a minority in. I feel guilt over the dark history that was dominated by my white and settler ancestors. I feel guilty that as a treaty 4 person occupying treaty 4 land I am getting so many benefits from the treaties while making no sacrifices.

Third, every time I list these terms I wonder what I am forgetting. What part of my identity am I continuing to leave unnamed?

 

Miskasowin 

“finding one’s sense of origin and belonging, finding one’s sense or finding one’s centre”

My initial reaction to this concept is I already know who I am and where I come from.

I am Shyla Froshaug from Big Beaver, Saskatchewan. I am a 6th generation Canadian, a multi-generation rancher, and a 5th generation school teacher. I grew up on my great-grandfather’s ranch, and then my parents’ ranch in the Big Muddy in Southern Saskatchewan. My parents, my grandparents, and my great-grandparents all grew up in the community surrounding Glentworth, Saskatchewan.  

My great-great-grandparents were immigrants. They all moved to Southern Saskatchewan during the 1910s to homestead as per the Dominion Land’s Act. They were coming to “fill empty land” and for the opportunities to own land and better their lives and the lives of their descendants.

The majority of my great-grandparents moved from the United States. However, I did have some grandparents come right from Norway and Germany.

My great-grandfather, Boyd Anderson, wrote an autobiography the year before I was born. From his oral stories and from his novel, he has left us plenty of information about our family history. I also have had  the privilege of getting to know all of my great-grandparents and therefore have been able to learn a lot about where I have come from. 

However, what has never been discussed is the treaty relations that allowed my family to own land and settle in Canada.

So that is where I would like my Miskasowin to lead me. I feel like I need to learn more about the treaty relations that have shaped me and how being a treaty person impacts me and my identity.

My commitments for this semester are as follows

  1. I am prepared to be vulnerable
  2. I am prepared to look at the stories that define me through different lenses.
  3. I will work towards embracing all parts of my identity without guilt.

 

Something Vowel (2016) said on page 8 of Indigenous Writes that spoke to me was “ Names are linked to identity and notions of identity are fluid.” Already in my 21 years of life, my identity has changed multiple times as I have grown, developed and learned more about who I am. I am prepared for this class and for life in general to continue to help shift my identity.

My name is Shyla Froshaug and while I am from Big Beaver, Saskatchewan, I don’t really know what that means historically. I am ready to learn more about who I am and where I am from.