Statement on Red River Cart vandalism

Attempted arson on Métis symbol "an education opportunity to strengthen relationships," says Rupertsland Centre director.

Bridget Stirling - 16 December 2015

On the lawn in front of Pembina Hall, two important symbols of the University of Alberta's relationship with Indigenous people stand proudly. Many community members are familiar with the tipi, which has become a welcoming sign of spring on campus when the painted canvas is once again raised around the wooden frame after the last snow melts.

This November, the tipi was joined by a Red River cart, the iconic vehicle used by Métis people to transport their goods across the Canadian plains. The cart was a gift to the Faculty of Native Studies from the Métis Nation of Alberta, signifying the partnership between the MNA and the U of A in the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research and recognizing the presence of and contributions by Métis people at the university.

If you are feeling upset or unsafe because of this incident, a number of campus and community resources are available to help:

On the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 15, a Native Studies staff member arriving for work at Pembina Hall discovered that someone had attempted to set the cart on fire sometime between Monday evening and Tuesday morning. The cart had some minor cosmetic damage but did not suffer any serious harm.

U of A Protective Services was called in, and they contacted the Edmonton Police Service, who began an investigation of the attempted arson. The EPS hate crimes unit has been asked to assist as well. We cannot speculate at this time whether this was simple vandalism or a hate crime. EPS is investigating and will make that determination.

Regardless of whether the person responsible was motivated by hate, their actions affect students, staff, faculty and community members. As one staff person said, "With the Truth and Reconciliation report coming out today, it's even more hurtful."

"As director of the Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research, I take this act of vandalism seriously," said Chris Andersen, associate dean of research. "In addition to the cart's symbolism for the Métis nation more generally, it also represents the strong relationship that the centre holds with the Métis community in and outside of Alberta."

In response to this latest incident, the university will be installing video cameras and considering other security measures around the cart and tipi. The University of Alberta takes these incidents seriously and is responding quickly and appropriately to increase security and support our faculty, staff, students and community.

Andersen hopes that the vandalism offers a chance to build understanding on campus. "Especially in light of the TRC, it also seems to me that this unfortunate incident has the potential to serve as an education opportunity to strengthen relationships between students, faculty and staff on campus, and between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Albertans more broadly."

The Faculty of Native Studies would like to thank all of our friends and supporters for their expression of concern following this incident. We will update our community as more information is available.

If you have information about this incident, contact UAPS at 780-492-5050 or the Edmonton Police Service at 780-423-4567.