The teepee that sits beside the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation (NCTR) has been vandalized.
According to NCTR director Ry Moran, staff first observed the damage Monday morning, meaning the attack happened at some point over the weekend.
Moran said the teepee had been slashed in several places, one pole had been broken and the pole holding the smoke flap open had been removed and shoved through the side of the teepee.
He called the situation “disappointing and frustrating,” and believes the attack could have been motivated by racism.
“I think what is clear here is that a teepee is a very obvious cultural symbol of First Nations people, so whoever did this was clearly desecrating a well-known, a well-understood, visual symbol of Indigenous identity,” he said.
“The exact motive behind it, we don’t know, but we certainly know that the action was such that there’s harm done to both something that is the property of another organization, demarcated space which is part of the NCTR, and then a visual symbol of Indigenous identity.”
The NCTR is hosted by the U of M and was created as part of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement to recognize the harm caused by the residential school system.
The centre is home to the entirety of archival materials collected by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.
Moran said the incident was indicative of a wider constant battle.
“What I think is sad about this is it’s just yet another example of the very long-standing history that this country continues to exhibit towards Indigenous identities.”
The NCTR has contacted security services, which recommended the centre contact city police, and a police report has been filed.
Former University of Manitoba Indigenous Students’ Association co-president Alannah Mckay sent out a statement Tuesday, calling the incident “a reflection of racism that exists at the U of M.”
“With the start of a new term, I think it is essential for students to be reassured that their safety is a priority,” she said.
“And on this issue, I hope you know that the Indigenous students on campus will support and appreciate the NCTR addressing this incident and reassuring them of their importance and safety here at the University of Manitoba.”
Moran said students who may feel unsafe because of incidents like these should look to their communities for support.
“In times like this, it’s concerning, but we are fortunate here, I think, to have a strong community of people that’s going to keep moving on.”
Moran said there are plans in place to take the teepee down for repairs and that prior plans to add the NCTR’s logo to it will continue, but emphasized the teepee will not be replaced.
“We’re going to let that teepee stand as a marker of what we have to endure as Indigenous people,” he said.
“We will let the truth of what happened to this teepee be a symbol of what we have to endure each and every single day as Indigenous peoples.”