O:se Kenhionhata:tie is created
On June 20th, 2020, O:se Kenhionhata:tie, known as Land Back Camp, was created by Amy Smoke, Bangishimo, and Terre Chartrand in so-called Kitchener’s Victoria Park. They have been organizing events in the community for a number of years:
The annual Waterloo Indigenous Student Centre Pow Wow,
National Indigenous Peoples Day, and
Numerous rallies such as Vigil for Loretta Saundera, Solidarity with Elsipogtog, Sisters in Spirit, Take Back the Night, and Idle No More.
With each passing year, they became more frustrated watching their communities constantly struggle for gathering space. So began the creation of Land Back Camp.
Land Back camp started with
1 tipi and 2 tents beside the playground
an Indigenous queer and trans space for young people
The camp started with only 1 tipi and 2 tents beside the playground with the intent to temporarily “occupy” a space in the park. After the second day, Indigenous and settler youth began to show up at the camp asking to join the space. With each passing day, the camp grew, becoming occupied with more young people. Bangishimo, Amy, and Terre, all Two Spirit folx, observed that most of the young people at the camp were also Two Spirit, queer, trans, and/or non-binary. Land Back Camp had become an Indigenous queer and trans space for young people to reconnect and learn about their Indigeneity.
4 calls to action demanding change
Demanding action from Waterloo and Kitchener
From previous work, Amy and Bangishimo were aware that little work had been done by the Region of Waterloo, City of Waterloo, and City of Kitchener to address the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Land Back Camp’s next step was the creation of 4 Calls to Action, each of them demanding change within the cities and region:
Waive all fees involved for Indigenous communities to gather in public spaces;
Create an Indigenous advisory committee that will work with both cities and the region;
Hire a team of Indigenous people that will work at all municipal levels; and
Access to land for ceremonial and gathering purposes.
We called on Turtle Island for support
Land Back Camp gains support
We called upon Turtle Island for support and help with our movement. The camp was supported through a very successful GoFundMe page (over $40,000), a petition receiving over 5,000 signatures, and a rally that shut down Waterloo Town Square for over an hour. The camp continues to receive support on a daily basis from community members dropping off firewood, ice packs, food, and supplies.
Waterloo and Kitchener meet with
Land Back Camp to address demands
Kitchener becomes one of few to address racism in council
After numerous meetings, the cities of Waterloo and Kitchener offered to meet weekly with Land Back Camp to address all 4 demands. In August, a motion was put forward at the City of Kitchener council meeting to waive all fees for Indigenous gatherings in public spaces; both the City of Kitchener and the City of Waterloo approved the motion.
On October 19th, 2020, the City of Kitchener put forth a motion to approve a budget to create 5 new Indigenous and Black-led positions. Once the motion was approved, the City of Kitchener became one of the few municipalities to address racism at this level. The 2 final demands still on the table were an Indigenous Advisory Committee and access to land.
Land Back camp moves to Laurel Creek
we found community in a time of upheaval and shared knowledge
Land Back Camp was invited to share space at Laurel Creek for 2021. While there were a number of challenges that had been faced by members of the camp, there was also plenty of wonderful support.
The space in Laurel Creek was used for ceremony, gatherings, workshops, events, and learning about land and water. Events like hosting Protect The Tract brought people together with education about the Grand River, and gatherings like the Two Spirit Gathering brought everyone together for much-needed ceremony and community.
All-in-all, the year was productive. Letter writing was done, pottery fired, medicines harvested, and plants tended.
While on the land, we received great support from all kinds of people in the form of supplies and monetary donations, and we found community in a time of upheaval and shared our knowledge.
Challenges at Laurel Creek
Land Back Camp is attacked
However, not everything was smiles and happiness. Members of the camp faced a number of challenges at Laurel Creek including:
Racism and ignorance in the form of vandalism and hate,
Lack of communication and support from the Grand River Conservation Area, and
Miscommunication with other organisations using the same campground.
In the face of these challenges, members of the camp needed to constantly guard our possessions. With so much on one plate, sometimes it was hard to balance.
Seeking a place to call home
Help us find a permanent space
We are currently seeking a permanent space to call home for Summer 2022. If you belong to a group or denomination that can help us, please email firstname.lastname@example.org