Vandalized Sturgeon Falls school teepee repaired, rebuilt
A large tepee that was vandalized in the backyard of a Sturgeon Falls school was rebuilt Friday morning.
The teepee is located at Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Elementary School.
It had just been purchased when it was vandalized twice in a matter of days. A pole used to support it was snapped and the teepee’s canvas was slashed open. The damage was first reported on June 3.
"It was a tough day when we found our teepee vandalized," said the school’s principal, Stacey Malette.
Malette said the community quickly threw its support behind the school. Arctic Canvas, a boat cover supplier, offered to patch the canvas.
Friday morning, school officials, students and Indigenous leader George Couchie, who teaches Indigenous culture, rebuilt it.
Two young people have been identified as being involved and a 12-year-old has been charged with three counts of mischief in connection to the incidents. However, because one of the accused is under 12 years old, they cannot be charged.
Police said they have spoken to the kid and their parents/guardians.
"After this happened, the principal -- who does a fantastic job-- talked about maybe we should do some cultural teachings in the town and to other schools," said Couchie, who wanted to emphasize the actions do not represent Sturgeon Falls as a whole.
Couchie also said he was sad after first hearing of the damage and is hoping the young vandals reflect on their actions.
"It’s always a teachable moment. We live in a world of racism as Indigenous people and so we need to move beyond that," he said.
"Somebody said, 'What happens if somebody cuts this again?' and I said 'We just sew it again.'"
The school has a student population of just over 200 and Malette said close to half of the students are Indigenous.
"For all our students, the teepee represents our work and celebration of all the work we've done around revitalizing the culture, language and history of Indigenous peoples," she said.
Malette and Couchie said they are thankful for the community for its support.