The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp in Regina began with one teepee. It grew to 15. (Kirk Fraser/CBC) In the last week of February 2018, Indigenous protest camps popped up in both Calgary and Regina.
Both were initially inspired by the acquittals of Gerald Stanley and Raymond Cormier in the Colten Boushie and Tina Fontaine murder trials.
Both camps were set up in public urban spaces.
Both camps did advocacy work and were safe spaces for Indigenous people who came to the camp looking for help.
But the reactions to the camps were very different.
The Regina camp was forced by court order to come down earlier this month. The Calgary camp is fast approaching 200 days and going strong. Mohkinstsis Healing Camp sits in the shadow of the courthouse in downtown Calgary. (Terri Trembath/CBC) CBC asked representatives from both camps to reflect on their experiences.
Garret C Smith is from from the Piikani Nation. He is the Founder of Mohkinstsis Healing Camp in downtown Calgary.
Robyn Pitawanakwat is an Anishnaabe person and a member of Whitefish River First Nation. She is a community advocate in the areas of social justice and anti-colonialism and one of the spokespeople for Colonialism No More and the Justice for our Stolen Children camp which stood in Regina.
Their responses have been edited for clarity.
CBC: What did you hope to achieve when you first started the camp?
Smith : To bring awareness to the numerous injustices and oppressive policies within the Canadian justice and governing systems toward First Nations. To highlight the crisis of negligence, evidence mishandling, improper investigation tactics and obvious sentencing differentials against First Nations youth.
Pitawanakwat : The goal of setting the camp up was to shine a light on the many injustices faced by Indigenous youth across Canada and the prairies, specifically in Saskatchewan.
What did you find yourself doing that you didn’t expect?
Smith : Everything we are doing now. Creating initiatives to assist with community building, youth engagement, homeless support, education, healing, community garden(s), advocacy and resource referral.
Having the freedom to explore positive solutions, from First Nations perspectives, to tackle the modern issue of addictions within the urban First Nations community.
The ability and support to plant roots and engage the community in a uniquely First Nations model without fear of recourse.Creating job opportunities by building networks of support between individuals and the various resource centres currently available.Saving lives by holding space for an individual to feel safe and express their feelings without being judged. We have had two individuals that credit the camp and our networks for healing to save their own life and pull them away from thoughts of suicide.We are building a community here, employing the traditional models of cultural behavior and principles held within our spirituality. Pitawanakwat : The camp was set up as a calling out of the Provincial Government, but became a place of healing, support and advocacy for families who brought their stories forward. The Justice for Our Stolen Children camp was removed once by police, only to spring up again. (Penny Smoke/CBC) What kind of response did you get from the broader community? Smith: Shockingly positive.Community donations of various clothing items for the homeless, food and firewood for the camp are constant.Local Elementary Schools have reached out to develop an educational engagement program for the kids and the camp.Notably, Thorncliffe School has contacted me to pursue an artist-in-residence spot.Cash donations for our online ‘Tipi Fundraiser’ are helping us reach our goal of having four teepees onsite. […]
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