New teepee slashed at Our Lady of Sorrows

·2 min read

A newly built teepee at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic School in Sturgeon Falls was vandalized the other day, and many students are “very upset” about the destruction. So explained George Couchie, former police officer and current owner of Redtail Hawk Training and Consulting based in Nipissing First Nation.

Couchie mentioned that he was notified that the school’s new teepee had been damaged last week—someone had broken one of the supporting poles. He went to work to find a replacement, a 20-foot length of balsam that would be ready to go after he stripped it and let it dry for a few days.

“Yesterday, when I called the teacher to let her know I got the pole, she said that somebody had come and cut the teepee with a knife.”

The knife slash did a number on the canvas, making a large hole that one could almost step through. As Couchie mentioned, the students didn’t take the news well, upset that the school’s new teepee was already ruined.

Couchie does a lot of community outreach work, offering lessons on cultural mindfulness, and helps to educate many groups about Indigenous culture. In that role he sometimes attends Our Lady of Sorrows “to talk with the students.”

After the slashing incident one of the grade seven students asked, “what happens if they repair it and somebody goes and cuts it again?”

“Then we will repair it again,” Couchie reassured, “we can’t give up on it.” Vandalizing such an obvious symbol of Indigenous culture reminded Couchie that “racism is still a big thing, and we can’t give up on fighting it.”

Despite the negative feelings the incident has stirred up, the vandalism has served to bring much of the community together. Couchie mentioned that Jack Serran of Arctic Canvas is willing to repair the damage for free—“you just need an industrial sewing machine.”

This Thursday, Couchie and a friend are going to return to the school, take the teepee down and bring the canvas to Serran.

An incident like this “brings the community together,” Couchie said, and “by us repairing that teepee, the school shows that it’s standing up to racism.”

“It’s important for our youth to understand that.”

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

David Briggs, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter,

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