WINNIPEG — A rare medal given to Treaty 2 signatories in 1837 has been passed down through seven generations of a Manitoba family to keep the history behind the artifact alive.
“The treaties were signed and then medals were given to nine signatories of Treaty 2 and many have been buried with past chiefs. I don’t know where the rest are, but they are very, very hard to find,” said Cindy Woodhouse, a regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations whose family the medal belongs to.
According to the Treaty Relations Committee of Manitoba, the medals were given as a gift from Queen Victoria to offer a lasting visual reminder to all the participants of their treaty commitments.
After almost 150 years in the family, the medal was passed on to Woodhouse’s son Kyler.
“I think with my son Kyler, I think it will be the seventh generation from the treaty it will be passed down to,” said Woodhouse. “My dad had it, and he got it from his dad the day after he passed away.”
The medal depicts a scene of a settler and an Indigenous person shaking hands. Woodhouse says the one man is a First Nations leader like her great, great, great grandfather chief Richard Woodhouse was at the time.
“So I think that symbol is equal. There’s no one higher than each other on the medal,” said Woodhouse.
“It tells all of us now when we look back at our history that we were to be equal partners, equal partnerships, equal at everything, and our people knew that the world was changing and that we were a nation.”
Woodhouse said along with the medal comes an important task.
“Treaties 1 and 2 were the start of building the west and coming to the west to live peacefully with the Indigenous people of this land,” she said.
“Kyler has a big responsibility, but he always remembers the treaties. When society doesn’t want to talk about it or doesn’t want to have those historical talks on the way this country should have been, that’s his responsibility.”
Being a new leader herself, Woodhouse said ensuring the treaties are followed today is very important.
“I want to see the day where treaty implementation happens. I really believe treaties make this country, and we have to move forward equally.”
Woodhouse noted ensuring the treaties are taught and followed today isn’t always easy.
“Truth is really hard sometimes,” she said, “I just think we have a lot of work to do in this country, and I really look forward to working with Manitobans and Canadians to come to that place where treaty implementation exists and we live peacefully together. This is what our ancestors wanted.”
Though it’s a lot of responsibility, having the medal is well worth it, according to Woodhouse.
“It feels so special to remember our ancestors on what they wanted for our people.”
-With files from CTV’s Kayla Rosen
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