On 9 March, security officers from the Manitoba Legislative grounds moved in with bulldozers to tear down several structures at the Migiziiwazison Sacred Fire Camp on Treaty 1 Territory (Winnipeg, Manitoba). The Sacred Fire is a grassroots, two-spirit and youth-led prayer camp that has reclaimed healing space on the Manitoba Legislative grounds to honour all the children who died in Canada’s Residential School system. Community members have been tending the fire around the clock since 25 June 2021 and are committed to doing so until the grounds of all former residential schools in Canada are searched.
Among the structures destroyed included the camp kitchen that an elder had built last summer. Winter clothing, medicines, musical instruments, and other camp supplies were tossed into garbage containers. “We would greatly appreciate that they use their energy and resources to help with the search of residential school ground[s],” reads a post on the Sacred Camp’s Facebook page. “Unfortunately they are more focus[ed] on digging out our tents and removing us from their view.”
In a prepared statement, Justice Minister Kelvin Goertzen claimed the camp was “damaging public space.” Such a remark makes very clear who the colonial Canadian government considers the “public” to be. Indigenous youth from the community who are nurturing a place of healing, supporting residential school survivors, and reclaiming Indigenous ways of being are not recognized as legitimate members of the “public.” The Sacred Fire is a desecration of public space to government officials, yet they fail to acknowledge the colonial powers that first damaged, colonized, and stole the land.
To date, only a handful of residential school grounds have been searched out of the 139 schools that operated. Already thousands of bodies have been found. Pray for the firekeepers at the Migiziiwazison Sacred Fire Camp who continue to witness to the truth and tend to the healing of their community. Pray for all those grieving loved ones lost to residential schools and who are awaiting their return home.