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Natives remove barricade; Tensions eased after progress in negotiations

But two barriers remain; residents still without hydro

Jessica Leeder and Richard Brennan - Staff Reporters
Toronto Star
May 24, 2006. 01:00 AM

[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—Tensions here lifted somewhat yesterday when Six Nations protestors finally removed a controversial barricade that severed highway traffic from the town's main street for more than a month.

While a cheer went up when the first vehicle drove down the newly cleared street, residents' concerns turned to their lack of electricity and another native barricade on the Highway 6 bypass still in place.

"There are cars going through for the first time in months," resident Marcia Kenyon said. "To me, that's peace. The worst of it is over. But the fact that we're not going to have hydro for three or four days, that puts some stress on it.

"I don't mind if they want to protest land claims," she said, but added, "It shouldn't affect innocent people in a peaceful town who just want to live their lives."

The removal of the large barricade blocking Argyle St. came after a breakthrough in early-afternoon negotiations led by former Ontario premier David Peterson, when Mohawk protestor Mike Laughing offered a lilac branch as a symbol of peace to Ken Howlett of the Caledonia Citizens' Alliance.

It was an unexpected turnaround after a violent clash at the barricade site on Monday between native protestors and fed-up town residents.

A fight broke out at the site hours after native protestors dismantled their barricade, only to find residents on the other side had set up their own chain-link barrier to block native traffic from entering town.

The move led to vandals lighting a car on fire and smashing it into a hydro transformer on the native side, knocking out the town's entire power supply.

Given the melee from the previous day, many local residents showed up at the police line separating the two groups yesterday, hoping the natives would agree to give it a second chance. Their prayers were answered.

Hazel Hill, a Six Nations' spokeswoman, said "council" resolved yesterday morning to dismantle the barricade and move the materials back to a nearby housing development site called Douglas Creek Estates.

In February, natives began occupying that property, claiming it belonged to Six Nations and had never been relinquished. The protest — and barricades — were moved onto the highway in April after police raided the construction site encampment. Two other blockades still remain — one on the Highway 6 bypass and another on a private railroad leading to nearby Nanticoke on Lake Erie.

Peterson made an appearance at the Argyle St. site yesterday to praise the community's progress after a tough weekend.

"Good triumphed over evil," he said, adding the dismantling of the barricade was only the first step toward a long-term peace.

"I think it's a very positive step for the community," he said. "Everybody has learned from the last little while. We have to live in harmony."

While Peterson spoke, Caledonia residents and other onlookers surrounded him, jeering and accusing him of grandstanding.

"You're making a mockery out of a travesty," shouted Phil Cockram, an onlooker.

Many said they blamed the provincial Liberal government — and, by extension, Peterson — for letting the situation get out of hand.

"I've never felt so let down by the government, all levels," said Karen, a local resident who asked that her last name not be printed because her property backs onto the protest site.

Janie Jamieson, another Six Nations' spokeswoman, called the day "historic," even though the actual land dispute is far from being resolved.

At Queen's Park, Premier Dalton McGuinty expressed relief the barricade had come down.

"Last night was a result of ill will and...a growing sense of frustration. Today is what happens when we bring goodwill and trust and perseverance to bear," he said.

The premier also suggested both Queen's Park and Ottawa are obligated to provide some compensation to the town, which has been hit hard by the blockade. "We have provided some funding for the developer to ensure that they don't suffer financial compromise as a result of this," McGuinty said. "We and the federal government share some responsibility here together to assist the community.

"We've also provided some assistance to the municipality."

Federal officials did not respond to McGuinty's suggestion that Ottawa should provide aid. But this month it appointed former Tory cabinet minister Barbara McDougall to hammer out a work plan to address the issues related to the land claim.

With files from Robert Benzie and Bruce Campion-Smith

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