Treaty-Walk project earns Fort Qu’Appelle teacher federal recognition
- Local Journalism Initiative - NC Raine and Kerry Benjoe | December 07, 2023
André Boutin-Maloney is proving small ideas can turn into something grand.
The Bert Fox Community High School teacher and his students created a digital, interactive, and self-guided walk called Finding Common Ground: A Treaty Walk (& Roll) Through Fort Qu’Appelle.
As a result, Boutin-Maloney received the prestigious Governor General’s History Award for Excellence in Teaching.
“I’m happy and excited about the award, but I don’t know how to accept it because it’s the work of so many of us,” said Boutin-Maloney, who has been teaching for 22 years. “It belongs to more than me.”
He hopes the project will inspire others to look at history differently.
Boutin-Maloney was inspired by his former colleague, Sheena Koops’ Treaty Walks project. For one year she walked three kilometres to and from school to reflect and meditate on treaties and their connections to the land.
While teaching his outdoor education class, Boutin-Maloney incorporated what Koops started and turned it into a mapping exercise. He challenged his students to infuse Indigenous-focused history in the community and land around them.
“We would walk around town together as a group, and students would point out things that could be included,” he said. “It was cool to see the students research different ideas. It was like falling down a rabbit hole – there’s so many layers to all these stories.”
They overlayed the map with stories gathered from Elders, Knowledge Keepers, and community members, and included the Office of the Treaty Commissioner’s Treaty Essential Learnings throughout the digital guided walk.
The students mapped out the route using GIS (Geographic Information System) technology.
“The students started talking about how they saw their community in a different way,” he said. “They begin thinking about it and seeing it through a different lens.”
The final product is available through a QR link available at the Fort Qu’Appelle visitors centre and the provincial park office, as well as on the Finding Common Ground website.
About 80-per-cent of the student body at Bert Fox are Indigenous, so a lot of the students have lived experience in the history and culture explored in Finding Common Ground, said Boutin-Maloney.
“We made it for the settler-colonialists who didn’t get this information about Treaties and Indigenous rights and the challenges they’ve gone through for the last 300 years or more,” he said. “In that respect, it’s a social justice piece that we wanted to be a teaching tool for people who were ready to get on board.”
Boutin-Maloney said the project will continue to evolve and be modified as needed. He hopes other schools and educators run with the idea.
Several schools in the area have used the tool during visits to specific locations and some University of Regina education classes have started using it as a model for infusing Reconciliation into education, he said.
“I think Finding Common Ground could be a force for change,” Boutin-Maloney.