Six Nations Solidarity
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Katie Rook, with files from Lee Greenberg, Graeme Hamilton and Kelly Patrick
Published: Friday, April 21, 2006
[SISIS note: The following mainstream news article is provided for reference only, as an example of how mainstream media treats indigenous resistance to genocide. Mainstream media often presents biased and distorted information, lacking pertinent facts and/or context. Inclusion of this article on our site should not be considered an endorsement by SISIS.]
CALEDONIA, Ont. - Police backed off the front lines of a native protest yesterday after the pre-dawn arrests of 16 Six Nations men inspired hundreds of allies to flock to the site as reinforcements -- setting large fires, destroying at least one car and blocking off roads.
More than 200 natives gathered at a dusty subdivision project near Caledonia, southwest of Hamilton, disputing the acquisition of the land by Henco Industries Limited in the early 1990s. A court injunction ordered the natives off the land last month, but police made no effort to enforce that ruling until yesterday.
Ontario Provincial Police descended on the site around 4:30 a.m. yesterday and arrested the protesters, some of whom were sleeping in cars. No shots were fired, but natives reported being Tasered and beaten by officers.
"How is it they can do this and still expect us to have the same peaceful resolution we've been hoping for," Allen MacNaughton, a Mohawk Chief, said. "We still had hope [Wednesday] night about a peaceful conclusion. It makes things a little harder."
Black smoke billowed from a car tossed over a bridge and on to a pile of burning tires on Highway 6. A light grass fire burned yesterday afternoon within metres of a pile of logs stretched across the same road.
An 18-wheel truck and large piles of gravel blocked other site entrances. No traffic was being allowed on Argyle Street, the main road through Caledonia.
OPP tried to secure the site because "the behaviour of the protesters presented what was in our view a threat to public safety," OPP Deputy Commissioner Maurice Pilon said at a news conference yesterday. "We felt the risk to public safety was heightening and thus we decided we should move today."
Late last night, police said they had no plans to remove the protesters, though several police vehicles remained in the area.
Just before 11 p.m., a pack of motorcyclists dressed in Hells Angels gear drove up to the site and circled around it, Global News reported. They appeared to have swung by to show their support for the protesters.
Premier Dalton McGuinty said yesterday the government would again try to end the protest peacefully, through negotiations. "We are determined to resolve this, but we will do this in a way that results in no incident," Mr. McGuinty said.
Six Nations Confederacy leaders said they are willing to talk, but noted the protesters were acting on their own accord, not at the request of the local chiefs. "We do not control the protesters. We do have influence over them, but that influence depends on our ability to convince them that serious attention is being paid to [their concerns]," said a statement signed by the six-member Six Nations negotiation committee.
While no one was hurt in the confrontation yesterday, police and government officials said they are trying to avoid a violent clash such as those in the past in Burnt Church, N.B., Oka, Que., and Ipperwash.
The disagreement that sparked the standoff -- which began on Feb. 28 -- centres on the natives' contention that the disputed tract of land was wrongfully obtained by the Crown in the 19th century.
Henco Industries Ltd. insists otherwise.
The Caledonia-based developer said it gained clear title to the land in 1992, when it purchased a company that owned 40 hectares on which it eventually decided to construct the Douglas Creek Estates.
Henco said the Six Nations surrendered the town plot in Caledonia to the Crown on Jan. 18, 1841, on the basis that the Crown would sell the land and reinvest the money on the Six Nations' behalf.
Meanwhile, in Quebec, the Mercier Bridge -- the same span natives blockaded for months during the Oka crisis of 1990 -- was closed for less than half an hour yesterday while Mohawks from the nearby Kahnawake reserve strung up flags to symbolize their solidarity with the protesters in Caledonia.
"The message was: No one wants another 1990," said Joe Delaronde, a spokesman for the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake. "You put those things up on the bridge and it's a bit of a reminder."
The Kahnawake Mohawk Council of Chiefs also wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, which Grand Chief Michael Delisle delivered personally to Mr. Harper while he was in Montreal to address the city's board of trade.
Mr. Harper told reporters Ottawa is watching the unrest in Caledonia carefully.
"We obviously prefer to have peaceful resolutions, but I gather there has been some attempt at that and the situation is quite complex on the ground," he said.
A protester in Caledonia who identified himself to police as Rough Bark said police showed excessive force, Tasering one protester in the chest at least three times and then again behind the knees.
Despite being charged with contempt of court yesterday, he returned to the southeast corner of the site where there were several tents, a trailer and a picnic bench. "It was supposed to be peaceful," he said. "Until today."
Rough Bark said he did not have any weapons or know of anyone on the site with weapons.
With dozens of cars lining the perimeters of the site, and men -- some wearing bandannas covering their faces -- circling on ATVs, protester Clyde Powless said only meaningful negotiations will end the standoff.
About 16,000 people belong to Six Nations, he said, but only about 30 people were at the protest site when police arrived.
Six Nations, which operates as the Iroquois Confederacy and represents the Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga and Tuscarora nations, is not allied with the Crown, he said.
Six Nations, which has its own police force, wants to be recognized by the government, he said.
"Call Ottawa. We want them to recognize the Iroquois Confederacy instead of the Indian Act," Mr. Powless said.
He said his grandfather, Chief Tadadaho, was wrongfully removed from the protest site in 1924 with a gun to his head.
All parties were mindful of the shooting death of native protester Dudley George during the Ipperwash occupation in 1995, Mr. Powless said. "Obviously there is potential of significant issues here, but again this has been ongoing for some time and our focus is to find a peaceful resolution."
A policeman was shot and killed in the standoff at Oka in 1990, and shots were fired in the lobster fishery battles in Burnt Church in the summer of 2000.