'Like coming home': Land Back Camp setting up at Laurel Creek Conservation Area

The Land Back Camp is setting up on new ground in Waterloo, now calling Laurel Creek Conservation Area home.

It's the third move in the past year for the self-described Indigenous public land occupation.

"In working with the GRCA over the winter, they came up with the offer of this space, which gets us out of that settler view," said Amy Smoke, co-organizer with the Land Back Camp.

Members initially gathered in Kitchener's Victoria Park last June before moving to Waterloo Park in October, then closed for the winter.

The camp starting running again at Laurel Creek on Friday, with co-organizer Shawn Johnston saying it offers a place for Indigenous people "to come and gather on the land in ceremony and just learn and just be themselves."

The co-organizers are making it clear that Land Back Camp is not a school or resource centre for settlers. Rather, it's a place for urban Indigenous and two-spirit youth and people to exercise their treaty rights.

"We'll have elders visiting us, we'll be doing some drum circles, full moon ceremonies, community feats, it's a beautiful space with lots of room this time around," Johnston said.

"We're hoping to allow the youth to be their unapologetically queer self on the land," Smoke said.

About 15 members regularly stay at Land Back Camp. Some members say it's a place of acceptance, where people can learn how to reconnect and reclaim what was stolen from them.

"Coming to Land Back is like coming home," said member Dewe'igan Bearfoot. "It's so important to me about having that land back, about returning to that space and returning to Mother Earth."

"It's a way for me to learn how to walk differently, it's a connection that has been long forgotten in my immediate family," said Land Back Camp member Krystal Muise.