The City of Winnipeg says it won’t be taking down a teepee that’s been built on city-owned property on Henry Street near the Disraeli Bridge.
The teepee was erected over the weekend by an Indigenous group called Healing Together as a shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
“While we have not been contacted by the organizers, we recognize and respect the sacred nature of the structure and ceremonial significance of activities within it,” the city said in a statement to Global News.
“At this time, for these reasons, we will not be removing the teepee.”
With help from organizations across the city, Healing Together received donations of poles, canvas and even wood for homeless residents to start fires to keep warm.
According to the city, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service will conduct community outreach, ensuring the ceremonial fire does not pose any public safety risks.
Earlier in the year, a group of students put similar warming huts on the same land. However, they were quickly removed by city officials, as they were determined to be tiny houses.
“The shelters previously delivered to this location were considered tiny homes and, therefore, were subject to zoning requirements,” the city said.
According to the city, a tiny home requires building codes, the same as any other house or secondary suite, whereas a ceremonial structure does not.
The city said the original huts also posed a fire and safety hazard, and the structures were removed after the city said it received requests from residents already living at the encampment.
Ultimately, the city says the “tiny homes” weren’t in line with the Winnipeg Strategy to Support Unsheltered People, and due to the sacred nature of the teepee, it will be left on Henry Street.
A spokesperson from Healing Together said the idea to set up the teepee came from Elder Wally Richard, who was inspired by Jenna Wirch and her teepee, which was erected in response to the warming huts being taken down.
“We then got together with the men’s groups and provided what we could,” said Ryan Beardy in an email to Global News.
“It’s important for community to support community.”