Manitoba

Manitoba elder offers to restore damaged petroform at Whiteshell Park

Rocks that formed a snake were rearranged into an inukshuk earlier this week

Ron Bell Elder Manitoba

Elder Ron Bell says a disturbed petroform at Bannock Point is fixable. (meetup.com)

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An elder who's spent his life caring for a series of sacred stones that were recently disturbed in a Manitoba park says the site can be put back together and still has a future.

Ron Bell, who grew up in Winnipeg and the Whiteshell area, says the snake-shaped petroform at Bannock Point, which an Indigenous tour guide discovered disturbed this week, isn't ruined and doesn't need to be protected by security.

"This is nothing new," he said.

Bannock Point

An inukshuk now sits where petroforms made a snake many Indigenous people consider sacred. (Diane Maytwayashing )

Bell said he's been taking care of that petroform and about 200 others that are largely unknown in the Whiteshell Provincial Park for 63 years.

The now 70-year-old man spoke to CBC about it over the phone from his Winnipeg hospital bed on Saturday. He said while news about the petroform being disturbed is upsetting, he can fix it and would once he gets released from hospital.

"I have all this stuff recorded," said Bell, who said he started taking care of the site when he was seven years old.

Bell said an elder from Alberta spent years coaching him and explaining the meaning of the sacred site.

"We'd talk about the stars, we'd talk about the forms on the ground, we'd talk about the animals and the different teachings."

He said over the years he's taken photos of the petroforms in the Whiteshell and knows where the stones at Bannock Point need to go to be returned to normal.

A tour guide discovered the disturbed stones on Wednesday while leading a group through the site and was gathering friends together to act as security this weekend at Bannock Point, but Bell feels that's unnecessary.

'With education will come respect'

Kevin Brownlee, curator of archaeology at the Manitoba Museum, said it's important to keep the site going.

"Whether you see it as an archaeologist site or whether you see it as a spiritual Indigenous site they both have reasons why they should be preserved."

Bell said instead of securing the public site, educating visitors on the sacred meaning of the site would be better.

"I want people to know that they should show respect for someone else's beliefs and things. We don't come into your church ... and move things all around."

"If you educate people hopefully with education will come respect."

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