By Cory Bilyea
KITCHENER – The All-Nations flag has been raised at the O:se Kenhionhata:tie camp as a small group of Indigenous People “gather in the Great Peace to celebrate, learn, and advance in our culture.
They represent several nations living under the peace of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum, and the Two Row Wampum,” according to their Facebook page.
What began on National Indigenous Day, June 21, has now attracted the attention of mainstream media and the mayors of Kitchener and Waterloo, Berry Vrbanovic, and Dave Jaworsky.
The camp is now a proper gathering space, with food tents, cooking supplies, and access to washroom facilities. Moving forward the organizers are creating plans for cultural activities and learning opportunities for the local Indigenous community.
It will remain at Victoria Park until another land base more suitable is given back to the people, never to be taken away or charged fees for.
This will allow them to enlarge the community garden projects, erect permanent teaching lodges, sweat lodges, and other traditional activities that can be held, that are paramount to the healing of the people.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission has a specific creed and human rights for Indigenous peoples which include the following.
Indigenous peoples in Ontario continue to face major barriers practicing spiritual traditions. This has sometimes been because people do not understand Indigenous Spirituality as a whole way of life, and as a result, don’t recognize and accommodate Indigenous Spirituality in its diverse forms and expressions. Also, attitudes and institutional practices of the colonial past continue to affect us today.
The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) is an international instrument adopted by the United Nations on September 13, 2007, to enshrine (according to Article 43) the rights that “constitute the minimum standards for the survival, dignity, and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”
UNDRIP protects collective rights that may not be addressed in other human rights charters that emphasize individual rights, and it also safeguards the individual rights of Indigenous people.
The Declaration is the product of almost 25 years of deliberation by U.N. member states and Indigenous groups.
Article 11 of this declaration says “Indigenous peoples have the right to practise and revitalize their cultural traditions and customs. This includes the right to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures, such as archaeological and historical sites, artifacts, designs, ceremonies, technologies and visual and performing arts and literature.”
Victoria Park is part of the Haldimand Treaty and is also a traditional gathering, trading, feasting, and ceremonial site of the Chinnonton, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinaabe nations.
The second part of article 11 says, “States shall provide redress through effective mechanisms, which may include restitution, developed in conjunction with indigenous peoples, with respect to their cultural, intellectual, religious and spiritual property taken without their free, prior and informed consent or in violation of their laws, traditions, and customs.”
An excerpt from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s website says, “Perhaps the most notable part of Haudenosaunee culture is the spirituality, seen through expressions of thanks for all we have and hope to have, which is shared among the nations.
Spirituality is a central part of the lives of the Haudenosaunee people but parallel to this is respect for other religions.
The Great Law of Peace itself was built into it, freedom of religion, which is respected by all its followers.
The nations of the Haudenosaunee believe that we borrow the earth from our children’s children and it is our duty to protect it and the culture for future generations. All decisions made now are made with the future generations, who will inherit the earth, in mind.”
Similarly, the Anishinaabe, the Cree, the Metis, and the hundreds of other Indigenous Nations have teachings and beliefs that are parallel to each other.
An excerpt from Ojibway Teachings – An Ojibway peoples resource says, “The teachings in the Ojibwe culture have been traditionally passed down from generation to generation orally through stories and ceremonies.
Historically, this has been done by the elders that carry the stories and traditions.
Today, oral traditions are being shared by those who carry the knowledge of such things.
The teachings of all Aboriginal cultures encompass the morals, values, structures, ceremonial practices, spiritual beliefs of the group. These teachings also ensured the survival of the people.
For the Ojibwe people, the teachings vary from nation to nation, because of the geographical placement of each particular group.
However, the Ojibwe teachings commonly come from the same root and share a similar message.”
The camp in Kitchener has grown to around 15 people throughout the week since it began and they will be hosting a gathering on July 1, as a day of mourning for what has been taken.
Their Facebook page says, “This is not a day of celebration. This day is a reminder of what was taken from us. We are NOT Canadians. We are INDIGENOUS! Please join us throughout the day for singing, dancing, and speakers.”
A small garden was planted, as planting and harvesting are traditional methods of teaching with all First Nations, and is an incredibly important topic of the conversations happening right now. Food sovereignty is a great tool to have to help heal the people.
Currently, the mayors, Vrbanovic, and Jaworsky are reading the Declaration (UNDRIP) and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, which they admitted to the camp during their visit, they had not read completely.
Vrbanovic vows he will make the necessary changes and provide space for the Indigenous people in the Waterloo region.