A teepee set up on Parliament Hill by a grassroots Indigenous group has been moved from a far corner of the lawn to the west side of the Canada Day stage in Ottawa, closer to the Peace Tower.
The teepee was originally set up on the far southeastern corner of the Hill early Thursday morning after a standoff with RCMP, who at first would not let the group onto it.
Nine people were arrested and temporarily detained. They were released with trespass notices banning them from the Hill for six months.
Sophie Gunner-Sagapabuckskum of Moose Cree First Nation, who was there early Thursday morning when the teepee was set up and called police resistance to it “not pretty,” said she’s glad.
“It was a long negotiation. It was all day with the RCMP…. We had to help them understand the meaning of our teepee and what it represents to our people. We had to get them to understand that first before they let us put our teepee in its rightful place.
“It all came together like a miracle. It was not a coincidence,” Gunner-Sagapabuckskum said. “It’s like a miracle happened for us. It’s a road for us to go forward now, to go forward in all the things that happened to our people. That’s what it represents. That door is open now and we came through.
“We’re being acknowledged. Last night [Wednesday night], I said we need to be seen, we need to be heard, we need to be acknowledged, we need to take our rightful place on Turtle Island. And this is what we’re doing.”
Contrary to some media reports suggesting the teepee has to be removed from the Hill by 4 p.m. ET Saturday, a spokesperson for the Parliamentary Protective Service insisted Thursday there was no ultimatum or timeline to take it down.
‘Declaring a state of crisis’
At a news conference at the National Press Gallery Thursday, Jocelyn Wabano-Iahtail declared a state of emergency, saying Indigenous people have been killed for centuries, and that their teachings and way of life aren’t being taken seriously in attempts at reconciliation such as the National Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
“Recognize me as a human being, because that is the fundamental problem, a crisis situation that we’re facing here on Turtle Island, that the settlers don’t view us as human beings. We’re still fighting. What you take for granted, we’re still fighting for that right,” Wabano-Iahtail told reporters.
“We’re declaring a state of crisis in what’s happening here in what you know as Canada, that there is a hunt taking place on our Indigenous human beings.”
She called the inquiry “colonially co-opted” and discriminatory.
“You don’t get to tell us how that inquiry is going to look like. It’s not your children you’re burying. That’s white privilege that you’ve been honoured with. It’s not you that are dying. We’ve been dying for 524 years, that’s why we’re here,” Wabano-Iahtail said.
Gunner-Sagapabuckskum said they were treated violently by RCMP.
“What we encountered … was not very pretty. We were bringing in the teepee poles and the police just came forth and tried to stop us. And I told those men, hold those teepee poles up, don’t let them go, we can’t let this go, we can’t, we just can’t,” she said.
“That teepee is our mother. The skirt of that mother is that teepee that you see outside there. And we brought that teepee there to help the water protectors while they do their fasting.… What is wrong with that? We are not a violent people. We don’t believe in violence, and right away we encountered violence. That’s the same way our elders and our ancestors were treated by RCMP.”
Speaking from Charlottetown, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday that it’s important for people celebrating Canada 150 to “reflect upon the experiences and the importance of folding in and hearing the stories and experience of Indigenous Canadians.
“We recognize that over the past decades, generations, and indeed centuries, Canada has failed Indigenous peoples. We have not built the kind of present, the kind of future for first peoples, for First Nations, for Inuit, for Métis people across this country. We need to be doing a much better job of hearing their stories and building a partnership for the future.”