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Celebration at Moccasin Flats as residents win the right to stay at tent city

Moccasin Flats residents and their advocates celebrated their court win Friday night.

The invitation on the Together We Stand Facebook page went like this:

“On Friday, October 22 Judge Christopher Hinkson decided that MOCCASIN FLATS can stay!

We are going to celebrate our win with a FEAST, a fire, drumming and words of appreciation. We will honour our legal team: BC First Nations Justice Council, the residents of Moccasin Flats, the BC Assembly of First Nations and those who contributed affidavits, prayers, and love as we fought this case. Join us.”

It took a while but eventually some of the homeless people who live in the tent city called Moccasin Flats on lower Patricia Boulevard joined the organizers of the party Friday afternoon that honoured the forces behind the victory.

There was a small fire, a lot of drumming and song, a table full of food, and a lot of warm and caring hearts behind wide smiles and every now and then they burst out with joyful hoots and hollers as everyone joined together to celebrate.

Those residents of tent city were quiet a lot of the time during the celebration and then one young woman even more quietly went to her elder with a plate of food in her hands she had prepared over the fire in front of her tent home and told him to please take it as an offering.

He hesitated for one moment looking at her with understanding in his eyes and then went to the fire, turned in all directions to encompass the entire tent city, east, west, north and south, then bent to make a small opening in the burning teepeed logs and placed the homemade offering in the heart of the fire.

And we all watched it burn.

“It’s an offering to our grandfathers, our ancestors - we feed them, they feed us back,” Elder Henry Abel Joseph said about burning the paper plate filled with food carefully made by the homeless woman living in tent city. “We have to repeat the words they gave us and we have to repeat them precisely - that’s the way it is integrated into our being. The ancestors watch all our actions.”

If people are seen as honouring their ancestors they are rewarded. It’s pretty simple, he added.

During his words of welcome he said he knows the residents of Moccasin Flats will be cared for by their ancestors.

“We’re here to celebrate the win for our brothers and sisters that are struggling,” Joseph said, talking about the court-ordered right to stay in the tent city without fear of being forced out.

“We cannot express how we’re feeling and how we love our brothers and sisters and we don’t need words, it’s our actions like what we’re doing here today that counts. I know there are people watching us and praying for us and we will be more successful as we go along. We just have to hang on to one another. It’s been a rough ride for many of us - we all just have to hang on.”

“Housing for all,” was the chant taken up shortly after Elder Joseph spoke. “Housing for all.”