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Six Nations clan mothers taking Caledonia land dispute to UN

Canadian Press
Published: Thursday, April 27, 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. -- Aboriginal activists occupying a southern Ontario housing development are taking their case to the United Nations.

On Thursday, Six Nations clan mothers were drafting a statement about the land protest for the United Nations.

Although they seldom speak in public, the clan mothers are considered the protectors of the land in the Six Nations Confederacy and have been wielding influence behind the scenes.

Former Six Nations resident Doreen Silversmith, 49, will deliver the clan mothers' message to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva next week.

When Canada last appeared before the committee in 1998 it was chastised for the "gross disparity between aboriginal people and the majority of Canadians."

The committee also expressed concern about poverty rates among aboriginal women like Silversmith, who rose from a street person to an outspoken native activist.

Silversmith was still waiting for written instructions from the clan mothers Thursday night as she prepared to board the plane for Geneva on Friday.

When they took over the site two months ago, the protesters erected a large banner proclaiming "Six Nations Land."

They claim that land is part of the original Haldimand Grant to the Six Nations people and had never been surrendered.

Governments say the sale was approved in the 1840s.

Don and John Henning, owners of Henco Industries, say they have a clear title to the land and satisfied all the municipal requirements before they started building houses on the site last fall.

Apart from delivering the clan mothers' missive, Silversmith will tell her own tragic story.

After growing up on the Six Nations Reserve, she went to Toronto where she slept on the street and in shelters for the homeless.

She ended up in a mental health hospital, written off as "a drunken, crazy Indian."

However, through the help of a nurse, she joined an alcohol treatment program and hasn't touched a drop of booze since June 26, 1980.

Representatives of international human rights groups have also taken note of the Caledonia occupation.

Bryant Greenbaum, who works as a human rights lawyer in South Africa, visited the Douglas Creek Estates protest site Thursday to learn about First Nations land issues and see how they compare with tribal issues in his own country.

Greenbaum said he was impressed with the way the Six Nations activists were conducting their protest.

"I see a peaceful political activism that can make positive changes,'' Greenbaum said.

While touring the site, he said he heard stories similar to those related to him by Zulu and Xhosa tribal leaders in South Africa, where land reform and reclamation is also a big issue.

Tribes that lost indigenous territories during the apartheid years are seeking compensation or return of ancestral lands.

"The images I've taken, the stories I've heard and the dialogue I've engaged in today will be taken back with me to South Africa and will be totally empowering for (the tribal people trying to get their land back)," he said.

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