Garret Smith, camp creator, poses as friends work to rebuild a camp in downtown Calgary on Sunday, March 11, 2018 across the street from the Calgary Courts Centre. Garret Smith had a few helping hands Sunday afternoon as a camp was rebuilt across from the Calgary Courts Centre and given a new, Blackfoot name.
As part of an opening ceremony event, Smith and other organizers and supporters raised a tent at the site for a second time. The camp, now called Mohkinstsis, was originally set up Feb. 25, following a rally in response to the acquittal of Raymond Cormier in the death of 15-year-old Indigenous girl Tina Fontaine in Winnipeg.
“We’ll be calling it Mohkinstsis, which is the traditional Blackfoot name for this territory here, the Elbow in the river, and we’re just going to see what we can do to continue to build community here with this,” said Smith.
Since he began camping out at the downtown site, Smith said he has had conversations with people including a provincial court judge, who came from the courts centre and spoke with him for an hour, and a meeting with Alberta’s minister of Indigenous relations.
“I’m here to build relations with people; I’m here to build connections with people; I’m here to help build an understanding between our cultures and our nations,” said Smith. “And, really, the only way that I know how to do that is just to allow people to engage on a one-on-one basis.”
Smith noted his idea to launch the camp was prompted by a similar effort started by Darla Contois outside the Manitoba legislature building following Cormier’s acquittal.
“She was my inspiration for even thinking of coming down to the courthouse and emulating that experience,” said Smith. “But out of that experience and spending the week here, it was apparent that the community really wanted a space like this — a safe space to engage in dialogue about anything and just learn about one another.”
Smith said the organizing committee for the site, which includes two elders, is planning to launch other initiatives at the camp, including cultural workshops.
“The ideas are pouring in and we’re just starting,” he said.
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