Oshweken, Ont. – For three days, following a targeted attack that damaged the back of their newspaper building, Lynda Powless, staff members, family and friends worked tirelessly to make sure that the kiddies had their annual Halloween treats.
“We are still planning to hold our special Haunted Halloween Porch for our community’s children. It is a highlight of Halloween,” Powless, owner and publisher of Turtle Island News said in a press release ahead of Oct. 31.
Early Monday morning, Oct. 28, 2019, Powless was awoken to a call that the alarm was going off at her office, an Indigenous news portal on Grand River Territory of the Six Nations in Southern Ontario.
When she arrived at the office on Chiefswood Road, she found the fire trucks and police were already there working fighting the blaze, that appeared to be caused by a truck that had run into their building.
“We were told at the scene by both fire and police that it was a targeted attack. A truck had been stolen in Hamilton, driven to Six Nations some 30 km away, into our building and set on fire,” she said.
“We have no idea why we are being targeted but understand that that is a question every Indigenous journalist working in our communities asks themselves as they put themselves as risk covering news in First Nations communities.”
According to a press release, a firefighter driving to her shift at the time noticed the fire and called emergency services right away.
“She probably ended up saving our building since the fire had only progressed to the north side of the building,” Powless said.
Amidst the smoke and water inside the building were the remains of what was twenty-five years’ worth of history, a few sooty, soggy discs lying on the floor.
Damaged computers and cameras will all have to be replaced.
Turtle Island News is Canada’s only national native weekly newspaper that is politically independent and owned and operated by Indigenous People, according to their website. They cover local and national Indigenous news.
Damaged CD’s and monitors after a fire at Turtle Island News in Oshweken, Ont., on Oct. 31, 2019. (Cory Bilyea/Spoke)
Despite the setback, Powless remains determined that the show will go on.
She said the remaining, undamaged Spooktacular display was there to greet the kids and give them a howling good time on Halloween.
“I’d like to thank my staff, friends, and family for their help during this difficult time,” she said. Without them, she said she would not have been able to pull it off.
Damage is estimated at $150,000 and they were insured.
Six Nations police say the fire is under investigation as arson.