Six Nations Solidarity
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CALEDONIA (May 25, 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.]
He's a simple guy.
He rides a motorcycle and looks like it. He works construction and has a thick moustache as if he's from the wild west. He looks forward to "bike night" at the local watering hole where his girlfriend works.
So it's not surprising that the last place Jim Meyer thought he'd find himself was on the front pages of newspapers. That's where politicians are meant to be.
But somehow, that's where Meyer, an average Joe, ended up this week.
"Someone had to take charge," he said smiling, his weathered skin crinkling at the edges of his steel-blue eyes. "It was just a gentleman's handshake."
A handshake, a lilac branch and two average men is what it took to get the barricade down Tuesday.
Meyer was one of those two men.
"It was a feeling I can't explain," Meyer said, bringing a lit Export A to his mouth with oranged fingers. "Something felt different."
It was Tuesday morning, the morning after the mayhem, and Meyer's cellphone was ringing. He's a cement cutter and work was trying to get hold of him. His girlfriend was calling him to the phone.
He could hear life's regular busyness but he was focused on Michael Laughing, a colourful character from Akwesasne who has been a mainstay at the barricade.
Meyer was standing in the midst of the standoff between native and non-native protesters on Argyle Street. The cream-coloured home he shares with his girlfriend and her kids is one of the closest to the contentious Douglas Creek Estates.
Meyer was trying to catch Laughing's eye and did. Laughing walked over, shook his hand and said they wanted to take the barricade down but they didn't know if the non-natives would move.
"I'll put my life on it," Meyer told Laughing, without knowing whether his neighbours would comply.
It was a gut feel. A feeling he can't explain.
The day before, a man from out of town had asked Meyer for a lilac branch to give to the natives as a peace offering. Meyer saw that same branch, so he grabbed it.
"I thought, I'll take this up to them -- we'll both take it up."
Meyer and Laughing, who was wearing traditional clothing, walked together up the road.
"Prayer is the most powerful thing. It worked here. I asked my God, or Creator, or Maker to give me wisdom. And here I am," Meyer says.
He told the non-native protesters the natives wanted the blockade to come down.
"I've promised him we'll move off the road," Meyer told the crowd.
He put the branch down in front of them. The crowd was silent.
Piece by piece, bit by bit, the two sides eased off.
He's no saint. He's got plenty of problems, he says. But he wanted it to work. Just the day before he watched the natives retreat and was shocked when the non-native protesters stayed put.
"They kept their word," he says, referring to the natives, "and we let them down."
Meyer says he felt an odd calmness as he held the branch and walked down the road.
"The experience was quite awesome for me," he says.
It was the culmination of three intense months. Because of where his house sits, native elders, clan mothers, and Six Nations protesters frequented his front porch.
"I've learned a lot, since I've sat here and listened," he says. "We do need a history lesson."
When you live where he lives -- literally on the front lines -- you can't help but be neutral, he says.
A Switzerland in Caledonia.
Meyer understands the frustration. He has a wet basement so had to rent a generator in Hamilton to keep the sump pump running.
"But I'd rather be out of power for a few days than see the army come in and have someone shot," he says.
It's been three months punctuated with police in the back yard, strangers using the washroom, and massive protests outside the front door.
Now that the road is open, life on Argyle Street has become, oddly enough, louder. Meyer had grown accustomed to the lack of traffic whizzing past.
He'll miss the drumming at night.
"We don't love our neighbours. We don't treat people with respect," he says.
Caledonia has to find something -- a Band-Aid -- to heal, he says.
"What is that thing? That's the question."
Maybe the land could be an native education centre for children, he muses. No matter what, the developers should be compensated.
"We just have to forgive and forget -- on both sides," he says.
As he walks down his driveway, past the lilac bush, toward the mended road, with Mohawk warrior flags flapping just a few feet from the property, Meyer jokes about what he'll be doing next. Maybe he'll have to try to get that Band-Aid going.
"I hope I don't have to go do the same thing on the bypass."