Indigenous Chief Says Tribe’s COVID-Rule-Flouting Sacred Ceremonies Will Go On May 15, 2020

Indigenous Chief Says Tribe’s COVID-Rule-Flouting Sacred Ceremonies Will Go On

When it comes to following life-saving COVID-19 health directives, we’ve seen many weeks of amazing dumbassery and lawlessness from Christians, Jews, and Muslims.

But micro-religions aren’t doing so hot either.

An Indigenous leader is telling the RCMP [Royal Canadian Mounted Police] to stay off reserve land after armed officers were dispatched to break up a sacred ceremony. “These are First Nations lands. This is Indian land. Stay off our lands unless you are invited,” said Chief Bobby Cameron of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, … who added that maintaining tradition and ceremony is even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our ceremonies, our sun dances, our sweat lodges, our pipe ceremonies will continue … no matter what any government or what the RCMP may try to say or do.”

It’s easier to muster some sympathy for tribes like Camerons’ that really have suffered terrible persecution, than for the cornfed Christians who observe oppression in every shadow and every wayward speck of dust.

It doesn’t matter in the end. He’s still wrong. Knowingly putting people at risk is disreputable and dangerous.

His Native American status bestows no greater specialness on Cameron than being a born and bred Allah fan bestows on a Saudi Muslim, et cetera. But the Chief thinks it might:

While powwows across the country have been cancelled, traditional ceremonies cannot be delayed, Cameron said. They cannot move online, like many church services, because they are inherently connected to the land.

So are the lives of 38 million other Canadians, 5,500 of whom have already died of COVID-19. The survivors would like to keep their feet on the ground a while longer. They’re in no hurry to float into the high clouds and the bright light that people of the First Nations think await when you die.

Concern arose last weekend when about 35 people took part in a sun-dance ceremony organized by Clay Sutherland on the Beardy’s and Okemasis Cree Nation, about 90 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. An elder had received a vision that it was important to hold the sacred ceremony to support people during COVID-19 and to empower scientists and researchers to find a cure, Sutherland said.

“We were doing this, not only for our communities and our loved ones, but we were doing this for all of mankind,” he said. “We did not expect to get a pushback from the government.”

But pushback is exactly what they got; a Saskatchewan public-health order prohibits gatherings of 10 people or more, and the RCMP, notified of a prolonged transgression, came to look at Sutherland’s tribe’s activities.

The sun-dance ceremony began Friday when a nine-meter-wide circular lodge was built using poplar trees. For three days, from sun-up to sundown, people danced, prayed and fasted.

The Canadian cops say they didn’t even force the ceremony to stop. They just reiterated the gist of the public-health order, and warned of “the potential health and enforcement consequences that can result from non-compliance.”

That doesn’t mollify Andre Bear, a ceremonial dancer and law student who says approvingly that at least two indigenous lodges he knows of have already gone “underground,” outside of the RCMP’s reach.

“What we do for traditional healing practices and what we have been doing for thousands of years is absolutely none of their concern,”

… Bear brayed.

Under normal circumstances, I’d agree with him. But with the coronavirus on track to infect its five millionth victim sometime this weekend, I’d say it’s time for Cameron and Sutherland and Bear to shutter their ceremonies for a while.

Premier Scott Moe said he planned to get in touch with Cameron. “The virus is indiscriminate,” Moe said during a news conference Wednesday. “There are other religious and cultural gatherings that have gone to great lengths to modify their worship services.”

Around the world, how much time do you reckon mayors, presidents, premiers and other civil leaders have had to spend on communicating that message to religious constituents over and over? Do you suppose that, in the middle of the greatest global public-health crisis in more than a century, they could have used those hours on better mitigation? How many lives would that have saved? I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

(Screenshot via YouTube)


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