Current commentary: The following letter to the Editor (June 2003) was written in response to an advertisement in the paper by a man fresh from visiting Guatemala wanting to rent land in Wakefield to construct a teepee where he could illustrate a "lifestyle embracing traditional migratory patterns of portable housing". Just the terminology made me laugh. The irony was not lost, at least for me but then again I'm kind of strange that way. A generation of First Nations are driven out, another generation passes and a third generation arrives, all ready to build teepees. History laughs. I still see Larry Vincent busily wandering about and every time I see him I think about the teepee and get very cranky. He must think I'm a cranky old soul. Well... maybe I am... I suppose I have a bit of an issue with the sanitization of multi-culturalism where we build buildings to show off our culture as if it was a dead thing and not living and breathing in our very midst without room for expression. It isn't hard to realize why the extraordinarily popular (and possibly profitable) Native Festivals of Wakefield are in fact in Wakefield, far from Chelsea's madding crowd. But that is another story and I digress...
TOO TENSE FOR TEEPEES
I read with interest in The Low Down to Hull and Back (June 4) Mr. *****’s wish to rent some land in or near Wakefield in order to construct a teepee for the summer. Now I don’t know how they do things in Guatemala but he’d better be careful in the God-fearing hills of Shangri-la, aka Chelsea. You can’t just pitch your teepee here on the way to Wakefield. Just so you know.
Precedent has already been set against such reckless alternative lifestyle behavior here in Chelsea aka Unceded-Algonquin-Territory. Take a lesson from Larry Vincent, who once put up a teepee next to his store back in ’96 on the side of Hwy 105. It was all part of a joint business venture to provide native foods, crafts and a cultural information gathering place to clear up misconceptions about native Canadians.
You know, this wasn’t just any old teepee. It was quite the sight to see nestled under the trees with a view past the houses down to the river. They held a sacred ancient ceremony and erected flags as an invitation and welcome to all peoples. Within the week Larry had to take the teepee down because it had something to do with zoning by-laws, complaints and other such things. Larry must have failed to mention to the authorities that he was simply “illustrating a lifestyle that embraced traditional migratory patterns of portable housing” as Mr. ***** explains. I’m not sure it would have made a difference.
We can’t just have random teepee building whenever the mood strikes someone. Can you imagine? Where there’s one teepee soon there could be teepees all over the place. They could start cutting down trees, lighting fires, beating drums, roasting venison and chanting at all hours of the night and day. They could start putting up signs in none of the official languages and living God-knows-what kind of lifestyles as they dip their oars in our Gatineau River.
Suffice to say, the way I see it, if a Genuine-Article-First-Nations-Native-Canadian-Algonquin-Indian from the area can’t put up a teepee, well then I imagine neither can Mr. *****. Oh it’s more than zoning by-laws. Any good Indian could tell you it takes 12 poles to build a decent teepee and here in On-the-Way-To-Wakefield you can only cut down 10 trees a year on any given property.
Now I could be wrong about all this so on the off-chance they let Mr. ***** into Chelsea-on-the-way-to-Wakefield just remember: Don’t cut down more than 10 trees. Don’t build a fire. Don’t put your canoe on anybody’s property and for godssakes, don’t take a leek no matter how you spell it.
11 June 2003 Letters to the Editor
Painting: Blue Cow / S. Shawcross / Oil on canvas / 16 x 20 / SOLD
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