Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Native leaders hope feasting with city police heals wounds

  • Print
THE fractious relationship between Winnipeg's aboriginal and law enforcement communities -- punctuated by charges of racism and accusations of cultural ignorance -- are moving toward reconciliation.

Aboriginal leaders and community members, RCMP, Winnipeg police, firefighters and representatives of the military will spend the next four days feasting and celebrating to honour the men and women they consider to be modern warriors and heroes.

"There's been a difficult relationship between the aboriginal population and the police," says elder Art Shofley, organizer of the Bear Clan gathering, which is expected to attract more than 100 people.

"The idea of it is to bring back to the forefront the idea of supporting our police and our military. They're part of our community and we value them."

The Bear Clan is traditionally considered to be made up of those responsible for safeguarding the community, the warriors and the providers of food. Tonight, members of the RCMP and the Winnipeg police will prepare and serve food they have bought for the feast.

"This is very grassroots," says Shofley. "This is restorative justice at its very basic roots."

The gathering, which will be held on the grounds of the Behavioral Foundation in St. Norbert, will be kicked off with a large assembly this afternoon.

Winnipeg Police Service deputy chief Menno Zacharias, Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service chief Wes Shoemaker, RCMP assistant commissioner Gerry Braun, Mayor Glenn Murray and members of the Sgt. Tommy Price cadet corps will march in behind eagle staffs.

If all this seems far removed from the mistrust and hatred of the J. J. Harper days, Shofley says it is past time those bridges were mended.

"We can sit back and let the animosity get worse or we can move forward," he says. "We could deplore the situation or we can be constructive. This is an effort on our part to be constructive, to take action. We're choosing to believe the glass is half-full."

Murray will be honoured for the establishment of an aboriginal strategy and for his efforts to develop an urban reserve.

Aboriginal strategy

Urban reserves are city properties owned by First Nations bands. They allow aboriginals to launch commercial ventures and enjoy some degree of immunity from sales and income taxes. The creation of urban reserves is part of Winnipeg's aboriginal strategy, approved by city council last month.

Two projects are currently being eyed by Buffalo Point First Nation and eight other southeast bands, for urban reserve status -- a $2-million office building at 360 Broadway, which has been owned for the last six years by the Southeast Resource Development Council Corporation, formerly the Southeast Tribal Council.

Buffalo Point has also agreed to purchase and convert the abandoned Starland Theatre on Main Street and an accompanying empty lot from Centre Venture Corp., the city's downtown development agency. The property will be used for as-yet-undetermined commercial development.

"We want to acknowledge that this mayor and this council has officially opened the door to the aboriginal people, to build on the positive," says Shofley. "We've been officially accepted into this city and it's high time. We know what it's like to be marginalized. We need to be seen as bringing gifts."

Can it work? Can a four-day spiritual event really begin to heal the wounds of generations? Will this gathering really result in long-term change?

Those who have committed to the event believe it will.

Rick Kosowan, a city police officer on loan to the Winnipeg Aboriginal Youth Cities Project, says the gathering is a chance for mutual respect to be shown.

"It's an opportunity for all voices to be heard and respected," says Kosowan. "It's a chance for law enforcement and military to be recognized and to also recognize the value of the aboriginal community. Changes are already underway and this is a chance to build on that."

Deeper understanding

Zacharias says a teepee and eagle staff recently obtained by the police service indicate a deeper understanding of aboriginal culture.

"I think it's one of those two-way streets," he says. "There's a benefit, real significance to doing it."

PPCLI company Sgt.-Major Tim Power says the event has great meaning for the troops.

"I think for the military, for a few years we've been trying to celebrate the diversity that makes us strong. The fact that we do have aboriginal soldiers, that we honour Sgt. Tommy Price has great meaning."

After four days of feasting, honouring elders and celebrating the warriors, the organizers hope both the aboriginal community and the law enforcement representatives leave with greater respect for each other.

"They're giving of themselves, sometimes of their lives for us," says Shofley. "I have a responsibility to support and encourage them."

The public can attend the celebrations. Further information is available at 269-3430, or 986-7420.

lindor.reynolds@freepress.mb.ca

PHOTO MARC GALLANT/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 22, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Cheap summer weekends

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A red squirrel peaks out of the shade in a tree in East Fort Garry, Sunday, September 9, 2012. (TREVOR HAGAN/WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A Great Horned Owl that was caught up in some soccer nets in Shamrock Park in Southdale on November 16th was rehabilitated and returned to the the city park behind Shamrock School and released this afternoon. Sequence of the release. December 4, 2012  BORIS MINKEVICH / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Should Winnipeg control growth to deal with climate change?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google