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Local folk broker barricade deal

A small group of Caledonia and native residents take charge and find a way to move ahead

Marissa Nelson
Hamilton Spectator
(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.]

It wasn't a minister, a member of Parliament or any high-ranking politician who eventually brokered a deal to get the barricade down. It was a small group of townspeople and Six Nations residents who brokered it.

It was a major leap forward made by many small steps.

Remarkably absent from that effort were high-level politicians.

"They don't exist," said Caledonia resident Mark Hauser.

Like so many Caledonia residents, he has been directly affected by the blockade. His is an average family. He's never been too politically involved, but his family lives a stone's throw from the once-sleepy road that became the main thoroughfare around the barricade.

"It's been drop the ball and pass the hot potato," he said. "It's pathetic and ruined relations with the Six Nations."

He blames the lack of leadership for a large chunk of the problems.

"It's a mess and it should never have ever been this way," he said. "It should never have gone on this long."

Ken Hewitt, a spokesperson for the Caledonia Citizens Alliance group, also blamed Monday's fighting on the lack of government action.

"This is a result of the government's inability to sort this out," Hewitt said. "This community wants law and order restored."

It was in fact Hewitt who helped ease the tensions yesterday that eventually led to Argyle Street opening, after he picked up an olive branch from the ground and carried it across the Caledonia barricade.

"What happened here today was grassroots. People talking to people."

David Ramsay, the provincial minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, said it was a change of mood yesterday which turned the tide and he disputed claims about weak leadership.

The province is heavily involved, with David Peterson acting as the province's team leader, he said.

Peterson did work behind the scenes to get the Argyle Street barricade down and was one of the few politicians at the frontlines Monday.

Ramsay said he speaks to Peterson many times a day and has also been speaking to a representative of the citizen's alliance group.

"A lot of things you don't see are going on behind the scenes," he said, pointing out staff from municipal affairs have also been helping.

Ramsay called Peterson "gutsy" for going to Caledonia alone on Monday to face a barrage of angry Caledonia residents, some of whom hurled obscenities and held him captive behind police lines. He ruled out going to Caledonia himself fearing he may become a lightning rod.

He said before the protest began in late February, "significant progress" was being made on the Six Nations land claims but he's not sure how many people on Six Nations knew that.

He did say the focus of the province's attention today would be trying to get the barricade on the Highway 6 bypass down.

Conservative MPP Toby Barrett, whose station wagon sat stranded between the native and non-native sides for most of Monday, said he gives Peterson credit for his efforts but said the province is using a "calculated strategy."

"It's a strategy of delay, hide under your desk and hope it goes away," said Barrett, who still doesn't have his car back. "Not only is there a failure to communicate, but a vacuum of leadership and it invariably gets filled by someone."

He wants the province to open a storefront where people can get information and help.

Mayor Marie Trainer said people felt as if no one was supporting them.

"We kept getting 'we're making progress, we're moving ahead,'" she said, but then people would see the barricade get bigger.

The county has decided to hold off calling in the army, she added, because the Argyle Street barricade was taken down.

Federal Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice told reporters in Calgary he wouldn't be getting personally involved, saying he is satisfied his mediators are doing a good job.

"We've had respected people from the department as things have gone on. We have brought in other negotiators including a very well-respected person from Ontario -- a former foreign affairs minister (MacDougall)."

With files from Canadian Press and Deirdre Healey, The Hamilton Spectator

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