Indigenous rights activists have managed to erect a large teepee on Parliament Hill, to begin a four-day Canada Day protest meant to raise awareness about the federal government’s treatment of indigenous peoples.

The teepee went up in the early hours of Thursday, after a an hours-long standoff between the activists and police.

The group of roughly 80 demonstrators attempted to enter the gates of Parliament Hill Wednesday evening, carrying wooden poles on their shoulders, but RCMP, Ottawa Police and Parliament Hill security moved in to block them.

Both sides refused to budge for several hours. Videos posted on social media showed RCMP officers dragging away at least one person as others chanted "Shame" and "Let our people go!"

Eventually, 10 people were taken into custody and released shortly afterward. Candace Day Neveau, from a group called the Bawating Water Protectors, said those arrested were ordered to stay away from Parliament Hill for six months.

The teepee was eventually erected early Thursday morning just inside Parliament Hill gates, near the East Block.

“The people here protesting, they say they are here to stay, and it doesn’t look, for now, that the RCMP is about to remove them,” CTV’s Michel Boyer told CTV News Channel.

Police have set up a barricade to stop demonstrators from moving further onto the grounds. But Boyer notes that the teepee is in an area that will become a secure zone on Saturday, where hundreds of thousands of Canada Day celebrants are expected to gather.

Activists told reporters they are there to protest the Canada 150 celebrations and plan to fast and pray for four days on the Hill, which they say is Algonquin land.

Neveau, one of the lead organizers said: "We understand that as a country, people have pride that they're living here. We're taking a stance to simply educate and raise awareness about celebrating Canada Day and how it's deeply impacting indigenous people."

Jessica Bolduc, another member of the Bawating Water Protectors group, said the protest is about recognizing there is much work to do before anyone can say Canada had achieved reconciliation..


"I think Canada has one sort of view and way in which they engage with the world around them, and then there is the indigenous experience," Bolduc told The Canadian Press

"We talk about this smart and caring nation, but don't acknowledge that those privileges aren't afforded to indigenous peoples in the same way that they are to folks who have settled here -- whether that was 200 years ago or to people who we are welcoming here today in a ceremony of becoming Canadian," she said.

More than 500,000 are expected to flock to Parliament Hill on Saturday for Canada Day celebrations and concerts, where armed police and surveillance cameras are expected to keep watch.

For now, the Hill is still open to the public, but by Saturday morning, roads will be closed, barriers set up, and all those looking to gather on the Hill will need to go through security screenings.

It’s not clear how the teepee and the activists will affect the Parliament Hill celebrations, if they are allowed to stay.

With files from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson and The Canadian Press