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Clash of communities

Longstanding relationship put to the test

Wade Hemsworth
The Hamilton Spectator
(Apr 29, 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.]

Six Nations and Caledonia are two communities of roughly equal size that over generations seemed to have moved slowly from mutual tolerance to acceptance and in many ways toward harmonious integration -- until last week.

Nine days ago, police tried to end what some call an occupation and others call a reclamation of a piece of disputed property where a subdivision was being built. Native protesters rebuffed the police and blocked the main road through town.

After that, the goodwill started to fall away in chunks.

Mutual resentment, financial stress, fear, rumour, frustration, misunderstanding, inertia and even racism have grown to toxic levels at the jagged edges where two cultures meet.

Only a few weeks ago, natives and non-natives alike had stressed the importance of preserving their longstanding relationship.

In the early days of the native action at Douglas Creek Estates, it had been Caledonia and Six Nations against the government, calling for an answer to a question they had been asking all their lives: who really owns what?

In those weeks of March and early April while they waited -- and waited -- for a reply, natives and non-natives alike trod very carefully on the subject of the protest, not wishing to upset the delicate but workable balance that had brought them together in schools, on sports teams, in workplaces and within many families.

They were thinking ahead to life after the protest. Even last week, there was still talk from Mayor Marie Trainer of the broader "blended family" of Six Nations and Caledonia residents.

But in a heartbeat, she and a Six Nations spokesman were arguing over something she had said, and each was using the term "my people."

And today the "we" that had presented itself to the public in recent weeks is fragmenting into "us" and "them," and even moderate people on both sides of the very real physical barrier are losing hope for a peaceful resolution.

Even that term -- peaceful resolution -- draws sneers from some in town, who say peace was lost when police needed to start staffing street corners, when protesters were burning tires across a public road and a footbridge from Caledonia to Six Nations burned and no one was being punished.

Behind the barricade, native protesters began to chide their fellows for buying "white man's coffee" and many vowed to boycott Caledonia altogether.

This week, natives behind the barricades confronted a native OPP officer and accused him of treason.

Today Six Nations spokespeople say they need to keep their barricades up to protect them from the people of Caledonia, and the police they once regarded only as their opponents are now also their protectors.

On the other side, some non-native residents started mocking the ones who do come to town to do their shopping. "They hate us for 'stealing' their land, but when they need something (i.e. fast food, beer or cigarettes) they'll come past the barrier and get it no problem," one person wrote in an unsigned message posted at

On a website, they have been calling for continuing protests against the barricades.

On their side of the growing divide, natives who once invited everyone to join them in fellowship behind their sawhorses and wire spools now strictly control the flow of traffic allowed behind their more substantial barriers of guardrails and gravel piles.

They are determined, they say, not to allow the police to use the road to attack them again. Some of them scoff at complaints of residents who are angry they can't get from Point A to Point B without a detour, and that their businesses are suffering from lost traffic.

"If business owners in Caledonia think they have reason to whine and throw hissy fits on national television or in newspapers because they lost a little money, they might want to walk a mile in native moccasins," said Six Nations resident Chris Montour in an e-mail to The Spectator. "These people need to realize the most important thing here. They are on native land."

Such protest and reaction is new to everyone at Six Nations and in Caledonia. They have no template for managing or ending such a confrontation. It is a national problem playing itself out on a local stage that is a busy place where two well-populated communities converge. It's a stage where native and non-native people live, work and go to school. It can only mean that on some level, it comes down to Caledonia against Six Nations. Meanwhile, angry members of both communities continue to share at least one connection: they are equally frustrated by government in all its forms -- federal, provincial and municipal.

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