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Is it spring yet?

Photo Credit: WinYuu / Getty Images

Tansi Nîtôtemtik, good morning everyone,

It's spring! Or... kinda. It's springy! It's still cold though! But daffodil memes are happening! What's going on??

Growing up on the prairies and west coast, I have memories of soggy, ice-laden Marches with "surprise" snowstorms, bemoaningly contrasted with calendar pictures of cute baby chicks and flowers. "The weather's terrible!" "What an awful spring!" In May, the world would then catch up to the expectations of spring - finally.

The four seasons

From information for potential travellers [1], newcomers [2], Scouts [3], and the Four Seasons hotel chain, you might think it's obvious: Canada has four seasons. Perhaps this short-hand came from the astronomical four seasons the earth has, which are defined by the movement of the earth around the sun (or, as humans tend to see it, the sun moving across the sky) [4].

Did you learn about the four seasons as a kid? I remember learning spring, summer, winter, and fall. Spring has daffodils and baby chicks, summer has hot beaches, fall has gorgeous leaves, and winter has fluffy snow. So says every colouring book and TV show I remember, anyway.

The first time I actually experienced this, though, was when I lived overseas in England. It was true! There were daffodils in March! Not from the store!! It was like walking through a picture book. Impressive, I thought: they have real spring here!

Real spring, fake spring?

The daffodils in England come up when they are ready. And so do the daffodils that have been imported here [5] and all the other plants across Turtle Island, across Canada. The weather here is just as 'real' as the weather in England: it's our expectations that are skewed.

Rather than comparing weather here to an English template, what if we took it on its own terms?

In large parts of Turtle Island (southern Canada), there seem to be six seasons. For example, some Woodland Cree of the Churchill, Reindeer Lake, and Sandy Bay Areas describe six seasons: [6]

Lac La Ronge Indian Band Six Seasons Poster [7]

Whether your cultures describe four seasons, six, or use a different idea of describing weather patterns and cycles of change, the world keeps turning.

Looking forward to March on its own terms can reveal its beauty. I do not see garden daffodils in this corner of Treaty 6 yet, but I see poplar buds, delicate mosses, longer days, and fragile ice crackling in fractal patterns. And even if the 'break up' isn't your idea of beauty, there are particular things that make sense to do in this season because of how it is.

Can you imagine changing out winter tires when it is consistently above 7 degrees Celsius in England??

Whether it's gearing up for spring planting, packing up the fishing outposts from thinning ice, or changing out winter tires, paying attention to the weather here - not the weather in England - is wise.

Real law, fake law?

The application of law would also be wise to attend to what's here and adjust, rather than insisting on expectations from the 'real' laws of England while remaining blind to the many rich laws rooted in Turtle Island.

When the earth is a source of law, as it is for many Indigenous peoples [8], interpretation is rooted in what exists. And whether or not you are Indigenous, whether or not you call it a poor excuse for an English Spring or a just-as-it-is Minoskamin, this time of year will be icy and mucky in Treaty 6.

Insisting on laws or legal frameworks that do not fit - and denying the existence of what is right in front of us - does great harm. [9]

And on the flip side, there is much to learn and benefit from by viewing Indigenous legal systems here on their terms, rather than insisting they look like English laws.

Maybe this is part of what the Truth and Reconciliation had in mind for Call to Action #42: "We call upon the federal, provincial, and territorial governments to commit to the recognition and implementation of Aboriginal justice systems in a manner consistent with the Treaty and Aboriginal rights of Aboriginal peoples, the Constitution Act, 1982,

and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, endorsed by Canada in November 2012." [10]

Truth comes before reconciliation, and recognition of what's here comes before implementing legal systems that work for the people who are here.

So with this in mind, I hope you enjoy this melting season of ice breaking.

Kinanâskomitin, thank you for reading and take care,

Hero and the ReconciliACTION team

[1] Jane McLean, "Introduction to Canada's Four Seasons" (October 2, 2019) online: tripsavvy (Canada Guide) <>.

[2] "The Climate in Canada" (2002) online: CEC Networks Inc. <>.

[3] "​​Four Seasons" (2022) online: Scouts Canada <>.

[4] National Research Council Canada "When do the seasons start?" (September 9, 2021) <>.

[5] Diego Rivera et al., "The origin of cultivation and wild ancestors of daffodils ( Narcissus subgenus Ajax) (Amaryllidaceae) from an analysis of early illustrations" (2003) 98:4 Scientia Horticulturae 307-330.

[6] Duane Johnson, "​​The Six Seasons of the Woodland Cree: A Lesson to Support Science 10" (Stewart Resources Centre, 2008), available online: Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation <>.

[7] Ibid.

[8] John Borrows, Canada’s Indigenous Constitution (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010) at 28-35.

[9] Hadley Friedland and Val Napoleon, “Gathering the Threads: Developing a Methodology for Researching and Rebuilding Indigenous Legal Traditions” (2015) 1:1 Lakehead Law Journal 33.

[10] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (2015), online: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation, University of Manitoba <>.

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