I have to admit, I quite enjoyed learning where I really am from. I had a good feeling my ancestors came from the UK. However, I didn’t know much more than that. By asking my grandmas, they both had to think long and hard. Our discussion turned into more than “grandma, where are you from?” Both shared stories of their childhood, or stories that their parents or grandparents shared with them. What I learned from both of them is that there isn’t much more to my heritage than British, with hints of Irish. My maternal grandparents were both born in Saskatchewan. My grandma is sure that her dad was born in Ontario, while her mom was born in Chicago. When I asked where their parents were born, she was stumped. “Somewhere overseas. Wales maybe”. When discussing with my paternal grandmother, she seemed to know a bit more. Most of her grandparents ancestors came from England, while her maternal grandmother came from Ireland. She’s not exactly sure where, but she remembers listening to them tell stories about ‘back home’. When thinking of my grandpa’s side of the family, I reflect on a family tree that was made roughly 10 years ago. This family tree has my families lineage starting back in 1698 all the way up until 1997. It is mind boggling to me to think about the last 300 years of my family. It was neat to see how the Hipperson name started as Hypperson. I also enjoyed seeing that the middle names Kemp and Ellen go back many, many generations. My brother’s middle name is Kemp, while my sister’s is Ellen. I just always assumed, “those are just traditional names in the Hipperson lineage”. I didn’t think about how far back both those names went. When looking at the tree, I can see that my grandpa’s grandparents came over from Norwich, England. Thomas Hypperson, who started the family tree back in 1698 was born in Norfolk, England. It’s safe to say that Hippersons are quite British!
My heritage has had little impact on my life so far. It hasn’t affected the holidays I celebrate, the religion I practice, or cultural ceremonies I partake in. It seems those cultural traditions were lost when my grandparents or parents were children. Although I don’t feel lost without a strong sense of culture, I am often curious about those who have strong cultural beliefs in their lives. Whether it’s specific holidays, certain religions, or traditional dances, these are things I watched my friends grow up with, while I never felt that strong connection to my heritage.
When thinking about how my heritage fits into Treaties, I’m unsure of what that looks like for me. Are my ancestors responsible for the makings of these treaties? Although they may not have been directly responsible for the creation of these treaties, some of them were part of Canada during a time that these treaties were made. I guess I have assumed that because I don’t identify as a First Nations, Inuit, or Metis person that the treaties don’t really have an effect on my life. However, when talking to my students about how the Treaties affect their lives, I start to get a better understanding of how these treaties impact the lives of everyone.
When I think of who I am and the social positions I have, the first identifiers that come to mind are: I am female, I am white, I am straight, I am middle class. Admittedly, it wasn’t until I started my pre-internship at a very diverse high school in Regina that I really understood the privileges that come with the majority of my labels. I was seeing students of many different cultures who worked 12-hour shifts after school to provide for their family. I worked with other students who shared their worries of “coming out of the closet”. I didn’t fully understand until I worked with these students that the labels I had gave me advantages I didn’t really realize. Not once did I have to worry what people would think of my based off the colour of my skin or my sexual orientation. Fast forward to the past couple of school years. I see students that are completely unaware of the privileges these labels place on them. I often think, “Wow. Was I this blind?” This year has been filled with tension among races in our school building. It always seems to be the students who are perceived as privileged that have the hardest time accepting minority races. It seems that no matter what we as a staff do to celebrate diversity and recognize different cultures, we’re are faced with some sort of resistance. Having said that, our Diversity Week Celebrations always remind me how important people’s culture is to them. It is always an eye opener for our students to see how diverse our building is. For a building of roughly 600 students, we have over 40 countries represented! When we put all the countries on a map, some of my students were shocked at the different groups we have in our building, and how we all came to be here. These visual representations are a good reminder that it is worth celebrating who we are, and where we came from.