“In this era of reconciliation, it’s fine to talk about trying to do the right thing,” says Ron Lameman, bilateral treaty coordinator for the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations. “But, actions speak louder than words.”
With that spirit, Lameman is one of the experts consult-ing the creators of Exploring Wahkohtowin, a board game aimed at junior-high-aged students that’s currently in the prototype stage. The game allows players to become Indigenous families whose lives are affected by the treaty. Players can simply go on their own and try to survive, or build relationships with other players and collaborate. Instead of making the game about how the treaty was signed, it’s about what the treaty did to people. It’s about living the treaty, not a text-book explanation.
The game is the brainchild of Shift Lab, and approximately 10 prototypes were sent to various families to test out.
“I think it’s an effective way to educate young people; I’m a firm believer in tricking people into learning things,” says James Knibb-Lamouche, director of innovation and research for the Indigenous Knowledge & Wisdom Centre, which also helped design the game. “In working out how to explain the treaty, you end up working through some complex issues, in a way that’s not lecturing.”
Rabia Naseer, the project manager for the game, says that players go through 17 “events” in the game, both pre-treaty and post-treaty, where land and rights can be taken away and reclaimed. This will give kids and adults a better understanding on how radical the shifts were for Indigenous people on the land that had been theirs for as long as they could collectively recall, and the impact of treaty on their lives — and how we can collectively better our relations.
No Treaties, No Canada
In talking about reconciliation, we’re gaining a better understanding of what the treaties mean.
But, both James Knibb-Lamouche and Ron Lameman agree there’s another major effect that isn’t always talked about: Without the treaties, Canadian western expansion would have been hampered, and that vacuum would have been filled by…the United States. Knibb-Lamouche asserts that all of Canada’s territories from Manitoba to the West Coast could have been open for Manifest Destiny — the idea that the U.S. had a God-given right to expand its dominion over all of North America.