Published Monday, October 28, 2013
A native longhouse built near the New Brunswick legislature is grabbing the attention of politicians, but city councillors in Fredericton have yet to say how the traditional native shelter may impact their own bylaws.
The longhouse – a traditional native shelter where decisions are made – was built on the weekend by anti-fracking demonstrators, who plan to keep the shelter there indefinitely.
“It is true democracy. It is the people’s house and the voice of the people is heard here,” says Alma Brooks of St. Mary’s First Nation.
Demonstrators marched to the longhouse on the weekend and a stream of people entered the shelter while a traditional sacred flame burned inside.
“If they want to come in and talk and listen and just find out what our culture is all about, they’re more than welcome,” says Harry Laporte, Grand Chief of the Maliseet Grand Council.
The protesters also plan to erect teepees at the site, with each structure representing a different First Nation community.
“By November 5, all the teepees will hopefully be erected and we’ll have our grand council meeting here that day,” says Ron Tremblay of the Tobique First Nation.
Protesters say New Brunswick Premier David Alward has been sent invited to visit the longhouse, but he was not at his office when St. Mary’s First Nation Chief Candice Paul stopped by on Monday.
She says she left behind a letter signed by seven Maliseet leaders.
“To request a moratorium on the exploration or development of shale gas in the province of New Brunswick,” says Paul.
Alward was unable to drop by the longhouse on Monday, but officials from the Fredericton Fire Department paid the shelter a visit, leaving behind a fire extinguisher and safety evacuation signs.
The City of Fredericton has not commented on whether city bylaws regarding structures built on public land will affect the longhouse.
Mayor Brad Woodside is not commenting on the matter at this time but Chief Paul says she called the mayor last week.
“I know there may have been worries about a tent city but our organizers, our Grand Chief Harry Laporte, publicly stated in the very beginning that people are not allowed to ten there,” she says.
She says there will be somebody at the longhouse at all times to supervise the sacred fire burning inside.
“Once it’s lit, until it’s put out, it has to be named,” says Paul.
Canvas will be placed over the shelter by the end of the week, to make it look more traditional and to give it more durability.
The fall sitting of the New Brunswick legislature begins Nov. 5 but organizers say they plan to keep the longhouse standing indefinitely.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Nick Moore