Nine arrested after RCMP blocks teepee raising on Parliament Hill
by Jorge Barrera, APTN National News, June 29, 2017
Outside the tent-turned-holding cell along the sidewalk by Parliament Hill’s East Block Jocelyn Iahtail and Elder Sophie Gunner-Sackabuskum wanted to know what happened to someone named “Crow” who they said was arrested along with nine others for trying to carry teepee poles onto the Hill grounds without a proper permit.
The RCMP officer who oversaw the arrests, whose last name was Lemoyne according to his ID patch, said he didn’t know of anyone named “Crow.” Lemoyne said only nine people were arrested Wednesday evening for “obstruction” because they needed proper permits to set up the teepee.
“They were not allowed to come in with the teepee or they would be arrested,” said officer Lemoyne. “It is against the rules of the Hill, you cannot have tents. You usually need permits to go here. You guys are welcome to come, but no teepee.”
Ihatail said the RCMP had no right to keep the teepee off Parliament Hill. She said it was to be used for a fasting ceremony.
“We are the ceremonial people. I have a right to be here…I didn’t go invade Europe,” she said.
“I didn’t invade anywhere,” said Lemoyne.
And no one seemed to know what happened to Crow.
By now RCMP officers and Parliament Hill security guards had erected a barricade just inside Parliament Hill’s East gate to block the transport of teepee poles onto the main grounds now overgrown with the scaffolding for Canada’s 150th celebrations scheduled for Saturday. In the background, technical crews tested the laser lights on the main stage. A smattering of tourists, walking the nearly empty streets around the Hill on a cool and sweet June night now tinged with the scent of sage, stopped by briefly to take in the spectacle, which, in a way, captured the state of relations between Canada and Indigenous peoples, according to academic Hayden King.
“It’s an image that I think characterizes the relationship generally, this push and pull that goes on forever and ever (and) you see this inertia, those bones being prevented from being set up,” said King.
For a couple hours Wednesday evening the teepee poles were physically stopped by Parliament Hill security officers, who are now overseen by the Mounties following changes enacted by the previous Conservative administration of Stephen Harper. The Hill security officers clung to the front end of the teepee poles held aloft by supporters of the Bawating water protectors who drove down from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., Wednesday to launch the ceremonial action.
“We are trying to prevent it from going forward,” said one Hill security guard. “These are the orders we were given.”
Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee was one of the supporters carrying the teepee poles.
“This is not a protest or a demonstration. They are here for prayer, they are here for ceremony. They wanted the teepee set up so they could do their fasting,” said Madahbee. “This is just a ceremony, what is so scary about it? This isn’t a missile we are carrying here. It’s a teepee, it is made of wood poles. It is going to have a small diameter of space on the Hill.”
Kyle Chiblow was one of the Bawating water protectors arrested Wednesday evening and slapped with a six-month ban from Parliament Hill. He said officers dragged him down to the ground and arrested him.
“There were some forced movements. I got pushed in the way. I don’t care if you are wearing the uniform or not, I don’t stand for getting pushed around,” said Chiblow, from Mississauga First Nation. “I stood my ground and told the officer he was in the wrong and he needed to respect international laws. With that, they dragged me to the ground and into the tent.”
Chiblow said he grew up around ceremonies and learned much during the Idle No More movement. He said the Bawating water protectors were formed in response to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s recent battle to stop an oil pipeline from crossing under their drinking water supply in North Dakota.
“A few of us got together to hold demonstrations in Sault Ste. Marie to bring awareness of Standing Rock and that led to more discussions about what could be done locally and across Turtle Island,” he said.
Chiblow said the group of nine detainees set up a sharing circle in the tent-turned-holding cell and invited RCMP officers to participate.
“We got to have some dialogue with the officers to get an understanding of where they are coming from and it allowed them to get an understanding of where we are coming from,” said Chiblow.
Johnny Wabigwan, from Thessalon First Nation, was also arrested.
“We are here because Canada 150 is a celebration of holistic genocide,” said Wabigwan, who is also a member of the Bawating water protectors. “We can’t say culture because that is just one part of it. We can’t just explain one part of all these issues. We have to explain it all in a whole, it is the whole picture in one, in one genocide. The culture of the people, the way of life, the land, the natural laws bestowed on us by the Creator, by our ancestors, were stripped from us and now we don’t have the right to set up our ceremony on unceded Algonquin territory.”
After a prolonged stalemate over the poles, the RCMP agreed to allow the teepee to be raised on the south side of the barricades, just inside the East gate. It took two attempts to raise the teepee because the canvas was not long enough for the poles and needed a shorter tie-off at the top.
A press conference is planned for 10 a.m. local time on Parliament Hill Thursday about the next steps in the ceremonial action. Some of the water protectors are expected to commence fasts.
Assembly of First Nation Ontario regional Chief Isadore Day appeared at the action in a show of support and helped raise the teepee along with Madahbee.
“There will be moments over the next several hours, the next couple of days when negativity will want to come in here. It doesn’t belong here,” said Day, during a short speech. “Peace and friendship, that is on what the original treaties are built.”
Day’s cousin Candace Day Neveau is one of the Bawating water protectors. She said the action is just about reclaiming ceremony.
“We have to have faith in our traditions,” she said.
The last major fast in Ottawa occurred over the 2012-2013 winter when former Attawapiskat chief Theresa Spence held a liquids-only fast on Victoria Island during the height of the Idle No More movement.