March 5, 2021 · Issue 2: Space(s)

Sacred Spaces

When Indigenous youth began to hold space at O:se Kenhionhata:tie, we knew this was the beginning of a movement that was going to bring about change. We had become a ceremonial gathering space for Two Spirit and queer Indigenous youth and queer settler allies—a place for transformation.

Many of the youth who were part of the camp had very little knowledge of their culture and came wanting to learn about their Indigeneity. Knowledge keeper Dr. Kathy Absolon led us one evening in a full moon ceremony and shared teachings about the moon and the water we all carry within us. In a circle we formed around our sacred fire, Dr. Absolon passed a feather to invite us all to share about ourselves. Many youth cried as they spoke—there were tears of happiness and sadness from a longing to reconnect to the land. For some, it was their first time sitting in ceremony. The camp became a refuge where the youth could be themselves, unapologetically Indigenous and/or queer, and free of judgement.

The following is a collection of photos I shot at camp, along with words from land defenders who took up space with us.
— Shawn Johnston

“It’s been fun to be a part of camp because there’s lots of work to do like watering the garden, recycling, foraging for food, and helping prepare meals for everyone. We’re trying to take the land back ’cause it’s been stolen from us and we need to take better care of her (Mother Earth) than white people have.”
“When I was younger, I had a hard time being connected with the culture and discovering my path without guidance. Since then I’ve never felt so involved and connected with the earth and the creator and I am so grateful for everything you all have done for me, whether that means zipping up my tent for me while I’m running from the spiders or just having nice conversations by the sacred fire.”
— Jacki

“I grew up apart from my Indigenous culture and was fortunate to become involved with it when I started at Wilfrid Laurier University. After that, my connection with this community became important and ceremony is now a part of my life. Since joining the camp, I met so many great people as I expanded my community as well as my understanding of the issues these communities face.”
— Scott Vodon, Métis/Cree
“We will not be assimilated. We are still here, and we are still proud to be Indigenous... We created a space for our youth, our families, communities, Nations, and future. In all of the moments here, I saw and felt hope... and need for connection to the land and our teachings. Having mostly youth and 2 Spirit folks, we are reclaiming our identities and rightful places within our community and nurturing those coming next. It’s not a job. It’s an honour.”
— Amy Smoke