Senator Allan Bird
with permission from
The recent governance conferance in Regina, Saskatchewan brought together one of the largest gatherings of Elders in recent memory.
Elders from across the province came together to share their words of wisdom with future generations. In a rare occasion, the oral traditions of the Elders were collected on tape for a subsequent generations to not only hear, but to know, without question, what was said.
The Elders were provided with opportunity to share some of their knowledge concerning the process towards self government.
On the first day of the conference, Elders were divided into small working groups, where they shared stories and accounts from the past, with tape machines recording all.
The Elders were seperated into linguistic groups where they recounted the words of their Elders in their traditional languages, including Cree, Saulteaux, Nakota, Dakota, and Dene.
Thier main purpose was to provide guidance for the governance conference and to provide direction for political leaders on what forms self government structures should take, based upon traditions and values which reflect First Nations heritage.
One of the Elders in attendance, and who spoke at the opening of the second day of the conference, was Senator Allan Bird.
Mr. Bird is also not only a respected and distinguished Elder and member of the Montreal Lake First Nation community but he is also a veteran and member of the Saskatchewan First Nations Veterans Association.
"We never gave up our jurisdiction in the practices and policies of our forefathers," Bird told the gathering in Regina. "We need to talk to our kids about what happened in the past- we need to teach our kids, and tell them what is right and what is wrong, not only about the past in our dealings with Canada, but what they should do and not do in their daily lives."
"It starts at home,"said Bird. "Our Elders when we were young- they told us about how life was and they reminded us that as we got older, and learned about life and had grandchildren of our own, that it would be our sacred responsibility to tell them what is right, to teach them the traditions that our ancestors lived by."
Bird said that the children need to be told about the treaties because they are not only about heritage, but they have meaning in their daily lives all across Canada.
"They have to be told about the treaties,"said Bird. "They need to know why they were signed-what was agreed to and what was not agreed to. This is the same as telling them what is right and what is not in their own lives. They have to be told often so they won't forget. That too, is part of our ways. Treaties are our rights. If you take a person's rights away you are left with nothing."
Bird was pleased that the large gathering of Elders was able to come together, and more important, that they were invited to be an official part of the conference. He says that this should take place more often, as he, as an "old man" learned things when meeting with other Elders that he was not completely aware of.
"We heard lots yesterday about what happened long ago. I found out that a lot of what I heard I didn't know- it's never to late for an old man to learn."
Treaties, Bird told the gathering, mean more than just protection of right for First Nations, but represented the essence of what Canada stands for.
"These treaties were solemn agreements entered into equal partners to share the lands. We meant what we said, and a new country- Canada, was created. The treaties mean much to non-Indians as well, as it was their ancestors who signed these treaties. It is time that they teach their children what these treaties meant, too."