Indigenous lodge approved to operate on New Hamburg farm
NEW HAMBURG -- The Crow Shield Lodge in New Hamburg has the green light to continue its work, after questions about land zoning threatened its future.
On Saturday, coordinators of the Indigenous-led education and healing lodge invited CTV News to its site on land owned by Pfenning’s Organic Farm.
“The footprint is small,” said Jenn Pfenning, who owns the property with her family. “It doesn't negatively impact the environment and it certainly does not overwhelm or in any way impact the farming operation on this land.”
Pfenning, also the Ward 4 councillor for Wilmot Township, said work with town staff along with the Region of Waterloo confirmed no mandates were broken for secondary use of her property.
She invited the group to setup on her land six months ago as a way of engaging in reconciliation with Indigenous communities.
“This is a tangible way to engage in reconciliation,” Pfenning said. “Our job as part of reconciliation is to help navigate the system so that it doesn't continue to harm Indigenous people.”
Founder Clarence Cachagee called the partnership that will see the lodge remain on the property “historic.”
“It’s like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders,” said Cachagee.
The lodge started in Eramosa Eden before Cachagee wanted to bring it closer to Waterloo Region. He partnered with Pfenning who wanted to connect with Indigenous people in more than just a symbolic way.
Cachagee built the lodge on four components, education, healing, land stewardship and reconciliation. They are represented by four sites, a teaching lodge, sweat lodge, cooking area and teepee respectively.
“It’s meant for non Indigenous and Indigenous people to come together as equals, to work together, to walk together, to heal together,” Cachagee said. “We don't call people out, we call them in. We call them in and we create a safe space and a place where people can lean into those hard discussions.”
Three Indigenous women joined Pfenning and choose the locations of the four sites on the property.
According to Cachagee, his dad used to call him Crow Shield, which gave him the idea for the name.
Cachagee is from Chapleau Cree First Nation near the town of Chapleau, Ontario. He was part of the sixties scoop, and brought up by new order Mennonites. He lived near New Dundee and wanted to set something up close to where he felt at home.
“I believe that this is a time for healing for the Indigenous and non-Indigenous people,” Cachagee said.
In six months, the lodge has welcomed international students, city officials and local committees.
Now that the zoning hurdles have been cleared – there are plans to expand.
“I would say to people coming here, just come here. Just sit and listen and learn,” said Bob Nally, a volunteer for Crow Shield Lodge.
Nally helped welcome refugees to Canada, after realizing he wasn’t in touch with the people that were here before him.
“I had no direct connection with Indigenous peoples,” said Nally. “’How is this possible?’”
Nally is now a major part of the organization and hopes to help the group expand to offer similar services in other communities.
Pfenning encourages farmers in other communities who would want to set up something similar on their land to contact her.
“In order to expand what is happening here, it needs to be replicated,” Pfenning said.
Pfenning’s contact information can be found on the Township of Wilmot website.