On June 20th, 2020, O:se Kenhionhata:tie, also known as Land Back Camp, was originally launched by Amy Smoke, Bangishimo, and Terre Chartrand in what was known as Victoria Park in Kitchener. The camp quickly became a hub of activity and it was quickly 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”.
Fast forward through an intentionally short-lived land reclamation in Waterloo Park in the fall of 2020, a collaboration with the Grand River Conservation authority in 2021 to have the camp set up in the Laurel Creek Conservation area, the work with the tent encampments through 2022 and 2023, ongoing work with the local governments around supporting Indigenous spaces, and now with the opening of a new centre for “Indigenous, Black, and other racialised two-spirit and Indigiqueer youth”, Land Back Camp organisers have been busy.
This show features an interview with Amy Smoke, who along with her friend Bangishimo, is set to coordinate the activities at the new Willow River Centre in downtown Kitchener once it opens on October 7th.
Amy spoke of the goals and of the importance of the centre, the youth she hopes the centre will serve, and a bit of the process in getting to this point.
Smoke also discusses recent targeting of the centre, by an individual who used to participate in Land Back Camp, and the impact the action has had on Indigenous, Black, and other racialised communities, and two-spirited and queer communities. The police became involved in the situation after the vandalism was reported, and after arranging to turn himself in, the perpetrator of the chalking was charged with:
- Mischief to Religious Property under $5,000
- Criminal Harassment
- Possession of Property Obtained by Crime under $5,000.
The man was released on his own recognizance and will be in court October 26th at 9am
CKMS News has been in contact with the man, a self described “former ally” who had a falling out with others at Land Back Camp, including Amy Smoke and Bangishimo. The man defended his actions as acts to bring accountability to what he says were misappropriated funds stemming from several fundraising campaigns that Land Back Camp has received. One message he chalked read “Ose:Kenhionhata:tie didn’t take Land Back! They took money from white guilt”. In his communications on social media, and with CKMS News the man also described interpersonal conflicts and behaviors he did not condone or felt were inconsistent as additional motivations for his acts. However, with many of the details being unclear or speculative in nature and with the personal attacks on Land Back Camp participants, CKMS News did not find it appropriate or in the public interest to publish the full communication.
Smoke, clearly frustrated and angry about the situation, said of the man “They need an intervention, they need some help. They’re no okay”
The interview moves back to positive things around the centre with Smoke inviting folks to the opening ceremonies at the Willow River Centre on October 7th from 9am-2pm “but probably later”. The address is 243 King St E, near the Kitchener Farmers Market.
Smoke concludes by encouraging folks to check out the many events happening around the National for Truth and Reconciliation.