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Be-“witched”, bothered and bewildered
An Oujé-Bougoumou family speaks out over their daughter’s sweat lodge being dismantled
The parents of Lana Wapachee, whose sweat lodge was recently dismantled in Oujé-Bougoumou, feel both insulted and persecuted by their community, chief and council after having the lodge, along with any other form of traditional spirituality, banned from the community.
Just weeks ago, Oujé-Bougoumou residents not only banned all traditional Native spiritual practices within the community, they also sent community members to the home of Lana Wapachee to dismantle a sweat lodge that her neighbour Redfern Mianscum had built in her yard.
The community had passed a bylaw almost two months prior that paved the road for the dismantling of the sweat lodge after Christians in the community circulated a petition to have it removed and then brought it to chief and council.
“I was a councillor for 15 years in this community and I didn’t agree with the way they set it up and the way this was done. It was done by petition and the petition only had 16 names on it,” said Glen Wapachee, Lana’s father.
Glen, who is the brother of Chief Louise Wapachee, said he felt that his sister had really not done her homework when it came to passing the bylaw and the community meetings that came prior to it on October 27-29.
According to Glen’s wife Margaret, during the six-hour-long community debate over the sweat lodge, she and her family were attacked, insulted and “verbally abused” by other community members.
“What really upset me was that our chief allowed people to use verbal abuse in our community assembly. It lasted six hours, and people were yelling and screaming at us saying all kinds of bad things,” said Margaret Wapachee.
At that, Margaret said when it came time to vote on the resolution, she said the chief and two other councillors raised their hands to vote prior to posing the question. She feels the chief not only allowed the community to abuse them during the meeting, but led the vote at the meeting so that the resolution would pass.
Meanwhile Margaret said all she and her family were trying to tell the community was that the sweat lodge had been put up to aid in her family’s healing. After her daughter Lana split from her partner, Margaret said her two grandsons had become firekeepers for the sweat lodge and it was helping to heal their wounds as a family and also helping others in the community.
During the meeting, Margaret said some family members who tried to defend the sweat lodge were not even allowed to speak. She said her other daughter, Patricia, was told to step away from the microphone when she approached it to speak and that the chief halted the meeting when one of her brothers, Wally Wapachee, tried to speak.
Margaret said the family had also called members of local radio into the meeting to ensure that it would be subject to public record, the journalists were however thrown out of the meeting by the chief and council.
When it came to the dismantling of the sweat lodge in early December, Margaret Wapachee said once again her family was subject to abuse as her two grandsons who were standing by to witness the event were harassed by those handling the dismantling.
“There were two people really abusing the youth. They told them to respect their Elders and were yelling at them. But my grandsons were just standing there and not doing anything,” said Margaret.
Glen Wapachee said now that the family has taken some time to reflect on what has taken place within their community, they have come to the conclusion that seeking legal council is absolutely necessary. They are doing so as they believe that their human rights have been violated.
They are also looking to appeal to the general public and said the family has been in touch with various media groups, including some in Montreal.
“I think it is the point of view of everybody that we don’t want to just lie back and let anything happen to us. We have gone ahead and asked people in key places to help us and we are already getting lawyers,” said Glen Wapachee.
Despite numerous attempts to get a response from Chief Louise Wapachee and her council, the Nation’s calls were not returned and no statement has been made on their behalf by press time.