By Miranda Leybourne
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Wesley Bone has vowed to return to Lake Audy after he was evicted from the Riding Mountain National Park site last month, raising concerns among some area residents.
“The Lake Audy occupation never ended,” Bone told the Sun three weeks after Parks Canada cleared his tent-cabin hybrid and belongings from Lake Audy. “We’re going back there with 30 to 35 men and women and we’re not leaving.”
Bone has claimed that the Lake Audy site in which he has lived since 2019 is the tribal lands of the Okanese people. Now called Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First nation, the Okanese lived in the area around Wasagaming in the Little Saskatchewan River valley, hunting and fishing on the land surrounding Clear Lake. The band historically hunted for buffalo southwest of Riding Mountain.
In 1896, the federal government gave land near Clear Lake to Keeseekoowenin Ojibway First Nation. In 1935, the government took the land back to create a national park, evicting Ojibway people and forcibly relocating them to a reserve outside of the park boundary, burning homes to the ground in the process. In 1994, the land was returned to Keeseekoowenin along with a settlement of $4.9 million.
Bone, who said he doesn’t recognize modern treaties or the Indian Act, has alleged the site is an old village of the Okanese band, who never made any treaty with the Crown.
“We have right of occupancy,” he said.
A Parks Canada spokesperson confirmed to the Sun on Wednesday that items belonging to private citizens were removed from where Bone was staying and “respectfully packaged” and that Parks Canada had contacted him to retrieve the items. Bone, however, claimed park wardens violated his belongings, many of which he used for ceremony.
“They broke into a place where we hold all our ceremonial pipes and rattles,” he said. “We were not there at the time that they went in.”
Bone was arrested by Parks Canada wardens at the Co-op cardlock gas station in Strathclair, 54 km southwest of Riding Mountain, in November.
“Parks wardens acted within their authority when they issued a notice to appear to Wesley Irwin Bone outside a gas station in Strathclair, Man., in connection with some of the items seized as evidence,” Parks Canada said on Thursday.
Bone was charged with violations under the Criminal Code of Canada in connection with some items that were seized from his dwelling, Parks Canada said, and he was released with conditions.
Parks Canada didn’t disclose the charges.
Manitoba RCMP didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.
Since 2020, a group of approximately two dozen residents of the Lake Audy area have asked Parks Canada to remove Bone from the park.
Now that he has been kicked out, Darla Krupa, a spokesperson for the residents, told the Sun she and others are concerned about his possible return, claiming he has previously threatened locals.
“He was such a pest that campers literally packed up their stuff and left,” Krupa said, alleging Bone has also vandalized signs and public grounds. “You can’t tell me that doesn’t affect the community.”
Residents have been patient with Bone so far, Krupa said, because they believed he needed mental health treatment. His social media, she added, is full of conspiracy theories.
Social media accounts belonging to Bone show anti-vaccine and anti-government sentiments.
Krupa also said residents are unhappy that Parks Canada removed Bone’s items without telling them.
“Not one phone call was given to the residents to give them the heads up. This man has threatened all of us in various ways. This man has threated gun violence to all of us,” she said. “We were in jeopardy.”
Bone disputed this claim, however. “There’s never been any gun violence,” he said.
Nonetheless, Krupa’s group has requested increased surveillance in the area.
By the time Christmas rolls around, Bone said, he and his supporters will be back in the area, though he said their guns will be used for only hunting.
“We’re going to be there during the holidays and after and forever. And whatever Parks Canada decides to do, to come in there with blazing guns, then it’s going to be another Oka. That’s what’s coming.”
The Oka crisis, also known as the Kanehsatake Resistance, was a land dispute and 78-day standoff between a group of Mohawk people and the town of Oka, Que., in 1990. A police officer died in the conflict.
Miranda Leybourne Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with BRANDON SUN. The LJI program is federally funded.