First Nation graves vandalized in Mayo

Vandalism and arson in Mayo continued when two Nacho Nyak Dun graveyards were trashed over the long weekend. This act of desecration is just "totally, totally disrespectful of the First Nation," said Chief Simon Mervyn.

Vandalism and arson in Mayo continued when two Nacho Nyak Dun graveyards were trashed over the long weekend.

This act of desecration is just “totally, totally disrespectful of the First Nation,” said Chief Simon Mervyn.

About half a dozen fences at one of the First Nation’s gravesites were pulled down, thrown into a pile and lit on fire. The three-foot-tall wooden fences surround individual graves. Several have crucifixes on top. Some of those were also torn down and lit on fire.

Vandals ripped out between 15 and 18 wooden fences at the First Nation’s other gravesite, which is more than 100 years old. Those fences were thrown over the nearby embankment. This smaller site is located just behind the First Nation’s government office.

“The ultimate act of disrespect is certainly the desecration of our graveyards,” said Mervyn.

The First Nation’s heritage department has spent the last several years improving the sites. They have put up new fences, graves and markers. Best efforts have been made to identify individual graves and a map has been made for the graveyards.

But last weekend’s vandalism isn’t an isolated event, said Mervyn.

“I have never seen acts like this, of this total disrespect towards First Nation people,” he said. “I’ve never seen that before in my life.”

Over the past six months, windows on First Nation workers’ trucks have been broken, and the front-door window of a new, First Nation-owned grocery store was also smashed.

There is no evidence that these events are racially motivated, Mervyn said.

“One wonders, but again, there’s no basis for accusation at this point, in regard to the old spectrum of discrimination,” he said.

Hatred towards a specific family does not appear to be a motivating factor in the graveyard vandalism either, said investigating officer Const. Stephen Archibald.

No particular family’s graves were singled out in the attacks, he said.

There is also no evidence connecting these most recent activities to the previous vandalism of the First Nation’s property, he said. Police are discussing ways to prevent future events, he said.

The RCMP do not know if this incident is related to the many deliberately set fires in the area over the past several months.

They continue to investigate the situation.

Mervyn finds the incidents alarming.

“We have to pay attention, keep watch and make sure that nobody gets hurt,” he said.

No cost estimate for damages is available yet. Cleanup at the graveyards has already begun.

“We will bring it back to a state of good repair,” said Mervyn.

Anyone with information can contact the Mayo RCMP office at 966-2677.

(Meagan Gilmore)