Muscowpetung man takes a stand against racism
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | August 10, 2017
When Kamao Cappo walked into Canadian Tire in east Regina on July 26, he wanted to buy a chainsaw to replace the one he had at home on Muskowpetung First Nation. He was clearing bush on his uncle’s pasture and needed to find the right saw at the right price.
When he and his friend got to the till, he opened the box to see if it was the right fuel-oil mixture rate. It wasn’t, so he went to go look again, leaving the opened box at customer service with a can of oil he was also going to buy placed inside.
While Cappo was looking at the saws, the store manager walked up to them and asked if they had put the oil in the chainsaw box.
Cappo replied that he had and that the man’s response was swift: “You’re trying to steal. I want you out of my store.”
The exchange that followed is recorded in two videos Cappo took on his phone that have since made ripples on social media across the country.
In the video, Cappo says he’s not leaving. The employee becomes angry and pushes Cappo against the shelf, while saying to him, “You pushed me.”
Cappo calmly says, “I didn’t push you” and still refuses to leave. In the second video, Cappo is escorted out of the store. He laughs as the manager walks him to the parking lot and then tells him to have a good day before walking back inside.
Cappo, who is a respected horseman in his community and one of the headmen for the sun dance-rain dance in Muscowpetung, said he chose not to leave the store in order to stand with others who have experienced discrimination.
“I seen our people going through this. I could see (how) our children, the Indigenous women and the Elders, our very, very respected, valued Elders are treated this way and I said, ‘No I’m not going. I’m not leaving your store. I came here to get a chainsaw and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.
One of Cappo’s videos has already been shared 5,000 times on Facebook and there are hundreds of comments declaring both support for the 53 year old and outrage with Canadian Tire.
A small protest was held in front of the Regina store two days after the incident, with Bobby Cameron, the chief of the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in attendance. Idle No More in British Columbia held a solidarity protest on July 30.
Cappo said he was surprised that so many white people have supported him on his Facebook page.
“All of a sudden you see them all rising up. They don’t even know me. I’m a complete stranger to them but they’re outraged that this could be done to another human being,” he said.
Cappo complained to the police on Wednesday evening and as of press time they are still gathering statements, video from the store and speaking with the former employee.
In an email, Regina Police Service spokesperson Elizabeth Popowich, stated, “We also recognize that there have been suggestions that race played a role in this incident. That may be more a human rights matter than a criminal one, but we want to ensure we've been as thorough as possible given its sensitive nature.”
Cappo explained that his people’s traditional law kept him from getting angry during the incident.
“If you remain…entirely peaceful and you don’t strike back or even curse or whatever else, that person is in big trouble,” he said, adding that if he had lashed out he would have gone to jail.
“I would recommend to other Indigenous people that you can’t retaliate. You can’t. You nullify everything and you put yourself in danger and harm’s way when you do that,” he said.
A week later, Cappo, though a little sore, said he doesn’t hate the employee but that his actions point to an underlying current of racism in Saskatchewan. Since the event, he’s shared updates and reflections on racism on his Facebook page.