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Tension finally eases at native protest

Barricade removed, roads opened amid regret for 'hotheads on both sides'

Colin Freeze - with a report from Karen Howlett
Globe & Mail
May 24, 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. -- What a difference a day makes. Peace and calm descended on Caledonia, Ont., yesterday, just as suddenly as fury and chaos had erupted a day earlier.

Native protesters disassembled their barricade, opening a road that had been blocked for weeks. Townspeople accepted peace offerings and expressed regret for the "hotheads on both sides."

The rancour of a violent Victoria Day seemed to have dissipated. The land claim involving a disputed subdivision remains, but both sides agreed on the need for Hydro One trucks to enter native-controlled territory and fix a sabotaged substation that has been denying power to thousands. Ontario Provincial Police officers, who said they were investigating the "deliberate" act, appealed for calm.

As quiet returned, a clearer picture began to emerge of how, in a span of 24 hours, a series of minor incidents triggered a major conflict.

At 10 o'clock Monday morning, native protesters were taking apart their barricade on Highway 6, as promised days earlier, when some townspeople, unhappy at the delay, began staging a counter protest. A larger-than-expected crowd turned out on the holiday Monday morning.

People mostly kept to their sides, with OPP officers caught in between.

But at about noon, a vehicle tried to make its way through the divide.

"A native SUV came barrelling down . . . it was at that time when the non-native people said, 'Well, wait a minute,' " said Ken Hewitt, speaking for the townspeople.

The protesters didn't want to let the vehicle pass, but "the man in the vehicle continue to push through," he said. "He bumped into the couple that was standing in front of the vehicle, and that's what provoked the argument."

Sandra Muse, a native journalist, said: "[The townspeople] were blocking native cars from coming in, and some of the people were getting very violent, they were banging on cars and rocking them."

Ms. Muse crossed to the native side and gave an account of the confrontation. "That's when Bullet came and got me and he said, 'Show me where that vehicle is.' "

Bullet is the nickname of Six Nations spokesman Clyde Powless. Flanked by burly supporters, he waded into the crowd of non-native protesters.

OPP officers were unable to stop the fistfights.

The vehicle emerged from the crowd and Mr. Powless and his group returned to their side to refortify their position. A hydro tower was dragged back across the road. Men in camouflage stood on it, planting warrior flags. A backhoe dug into the road. Somewhere behind the line, vandals started a fire in a transformer station, knocking out power to thousands in the area.

For many townspeople, this came as a new provocation: Their food was going bad, they couldn't make dinner, and local schools and businesses would close.

As night fell, both sides stared across the divide, the OPP in the middle. Yet the night passed with no more incidents.

By dawn, anger gave way to negotiation.

At around 10 o'clock yesterday morning, the remarkable happened. Two non-native mothers, carrying Tim Hortons coffee, met two clan mothers in the middle. They had a brief chat.

Frustrated as they were by the power outage, which closed schools in the area, Tammy Slater and Diane McCormac came back hopeful. They said their counterparts were equally appalled by the situation.

Shortly after, the backhoe began tearing down the barrier. A native leader crossed to offer a branch as a peace gesture. It was accepted. Hydro crews were on the highway by mid-afternoon. A spokesperson for the utility said power would be restored to some homes this evening and expected full service to return by later today.

"Women should be running the country, not men," Ms. Slater said.

The disputed land, a lesser barricade, and angry feelings still very much remain. But many -- townspeople, natives, OPP and political leaders -- expressed hope.

"We don't enjoy the luxury of being anything less than hopeful when it comes to the situation at Caledonia, so we're not going to give up," Premier Dalton McGuinty told reporters yesterday. "We need to continue to work together to understand that nothing good is going to come of this unless we bring goodwill, trust and perseverance in order to ensure that we see progress. This has been developing for over 200 years now. It's not the kind of thing we're going to resolve in a couple of days."

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