Gatineau obtains court order against Algonquins occupying archeological site
By Jorge Barrera, APTN National News, Sept 18, 2014
The city of Gatineau, Que., has obtained a court order against protestors occupying a construction site where archeologists discovered thousand year-old artifacts.
The leader of the group, Roger Fleury, who says he’s chief for off-reserve Fort Colunge Algonquins, is scheduled to appear in court Thursday afternoon.
Fleury has vowed to stay at the occupied site, no matter what the city does.
“We’re not gonna move out, we can’t move out, this is a sacred site and we realize the mayor had no intentions of ever negotiating,” said Fleury, Wednesday.
Gatineau’s court action comes the same day Kitigan Zibi Chief Gilbert Whiteduck denied the city mayor’s claim an agreement existed on the fate of the site and the uncovered artifacts.
Whiteduck said his community has no formal agreement with the city of Gatineau over what happens to thousand year-old artifacts discovered on a construction site currently occupied by a handful of Indigenous protestors.
Gatineau Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin told APTN National News Wednesday that Kitigan Zibi band council “officially agrees” with his city’s plan to hand over artifacts dated thousands of years-old to the Quebec government, expand the archeological dig and build a park in the area with an Indigenous theme. Pedneaud-Jobin said the band council passed a resolution stating their support on Sept. 5.
Whiteduck, however, told APTN National News in a statement Kitigan Zibi does not have any formal agreement with Gatineau and no resolution was ever passed supporting the city’s plan for the site which has been occupied since Aug. 7.
“We do not have any formal agreement at this point as this would require further discussions and … council approval,” said Whiteduck in the statement.
Kitigan Zibi, an Algonquin community in Quebec, sits about 134 kilometres north of Ottawa and claims the occupied area as part of its traditional territory.
Protestors have set up two teepees on the work site which sits near the place where the Gatineau River flows into the Ottawa River. The area is surrounded by pieces of large concrete storm sewer pipes. Archeologist found arrowheads and other artifacts dated at about 3,500 years-old on the site which also included a fire pit dated to be about 6,000 years. The area is believed to have been used as a seasonal gathering place.
Gowlings, the law firm retained by Gatineau, delivered a letter to protestors Tuesday giving them 24 hours to vacate of face an injunction.
Pedneaud-Jobin told APTN National News he feared the situation will end badly.
“Unfortunately it seems this story is going to end up in a way that is not very satisfying for everybody,” he said. “We are still trying not to reach a conclusion that nobody wants. We have different legal options in front of us. If they stay there, we will have to. Winter is coming. The archeological digging has to be done before winter and if we want to protect the site, we have to act.”
Fleury claims the arrowheads discovered at the site were used during sacred ceremonies which makes the site sacred. It’s unclear how Fleury came to this determination since it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who the people were who frequented the area as a seasonal gathering spot.
The city is trying to reroute a nearby street and install a new storm sewer. City officials said the existing pipes have eroded and the street is in danger of caving in. The city is in the midst of a $43 million waterfront redevelopment project in the area. The National Capital Commission (NCC) is also contributing $10 million toward the redevelopment and transferring $6 million worth of lands to the city.
About a dozen supporters visited the site Wednesday which also attracted several curious onlookers. The red Warrior flag and the purple Haudenosaunee flag have been planted at the site which also features a staff painted like a cobra snake and a sacred fire.
Everett Taypaywaykejick, originally from Grassy Narrows, said he’d been at the site for two weeks and planned to stay until the end. Taypaywaykejick said he was raised in foster care and the protest had given him an education in his culture.
“I learned so much about my culture being here with the sacred fire,” he said.
Taypaywaykejick said he wasn’t afraid of an eventual police raid if the city obtains an injunction.
“We’ll see what happens,” he said.