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Forcing Canada to Confront Past, First Nations Erect Symbolic Teepee in Nation's Capitol

Protest meant to draw attention to historical mistreatment of Indigenous peoples by nation's government

Protesters raised a teepee in front of Parliament Hill to call attention to Indigenous people's rights. (Photo: Veldon Coburn/Twitter/cc)

Widespread applause greeted a large teepee in front of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario on Thursday morning. First Nations protesters erected the teepee as a reminder of the mistreatment of their ancestors amid celebrations in Canada for the country's 150th anniversary.

Though the demonstrators' first attempt to raise the teepee was blocked by police the previous evening, the effort was part of a four-day "reoccupation ceremony" ahead of Canada Day next week. Organizers say Indigenous tribes have little cause to celebrate the holiday, as their ancestors were driven from their land by Europeans who colonized what is now Canada.

Ten protesters were briefly detained during the first action, and were ordered to stay away from Parliament Hill in Canada's capitol city. Supporters chanted "Let our people go!" as at least one protester was dragged away.

But a group of 150 protesters were finally able to erect the teepee, drawing support from onlookers.

Jessica Bolduc, an organizer with the Bawating Water Protectors said the protest is meant to draw attention to how First Nations members have been historically mistreated by the Canadian government, and the need to acknowledge that in many ways, the privileges of living in one of the world's wealthiest nation's haven't been extended to Indigenous people.

“I think Canada has one sort of view and way in which they engage with the world around them and then there is the Indigenous experience,” said Bolduc. “We talk about this smart and caring nation, but don’t acknowledge that those privileges aren’t afforded to indigenous peoples in the same way that they are to folks who have settled here."

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