Following is the text of the June Peace Brigades International Project Bulletin report of the North America Project. This report is divided into three parts:
1. A Visit to Ipperwash
2. Update on Barriere Lake
3. An Interview with Harry Wawatie (also from Barriere Lake)
All of these may be freely reprinted, please give credit to PBI. For more information about the North America Project, contact:
27 Third Ave.
Ottawa, ON K1S 2J5
The terms of the appropriation were that the land would be returned after the war, but that promise was not fulfilled. At the time of the relocation, the government offered $50,000 in compensation for the relocation. Over the years, protests to the government resulted in additional money being paid - in 1980 $2.4 million in compensation was given to the Kettle and Stony Point Band Council for this purpose.
In May 1992 a group of Native people began occupying part of the military base. In 1994 the federal government announced plans for its return. On July 30th 1995, the army abandoned the camp completely after being forced out before the date they had planned to move out. The occupiers identify themselves as the Stoney Point people, even though they are not recognized by the federal government as an independent band. The Stoney Pointers say that they are ones to whom the land should be returned. In opposition to this, the Kettle Point Band Council had been negotiating for the land's return as a part of a combined Kettle and Stony Point reserve.
On September, 4th, 1995 about 35 Native people occupied Ipperwash Provincial Park. It is a small park located in one corner of the base, and it had closed for the season. The occupiers said that the park had been built on a sacred burial ground and belongs to the Stoney Point people. On Sep 6, a confrontation between the OPP and the occupants resulted in the death of one of the occupiers, Anthony (Dudley) George, killed by a shot from the OPP.
Details of the events surrounding the shooting varied widely at the time. The OPP claimed that they had been responding to a local disturbance, had been set upon by armed natives, and fired only in self-defence. The native people claimed that the OPP had intentionally attacked them with a well-armed riot squad, and that they themselves were unarmed. A few weeks after the shooting, a Special Investigations Unit (SIU) that investigates all police shooting began their work. It has taken a long time, but a report is expected to be published soon.
Ipperwash Park has not opened to the public this year. A week after the shooting, the federal government revealed documents supporting the native claim to the burial ground.
Over the winter, many of the Native people involved in the incidents of July 30 and Sep 6 of last year have been served with notice of trials for small and rarely used criminal charges. This has greatly angered them, as it shows a familiar bias in the justice system. These charges not only serve to distort public perception of the incident and focus attention away from the underlying injustices that gave rise to the incident, they are a form of harassment of those charged, some of who are having difficulty finding resources to defend themselves in court.
On May 28, one of the native men charged in the September shooting incident was acquitted. On May 29 an article was published by the Toronto Star that gave evidence of a secret emergency meeting held by the provincial Interministerial Committee for Aboriginal Emergencies on Sep 5. The reason for the meeting was the occupation of Ipperwash park the day before - the implication was that the shooting of Dudley George the day after was a direct result of a political decision from high up.
At the same time, there is an ongoing land claim (since November 1992) for West Ipperwash. This is some 370 acres of beach-front property of the Kettle Point reserve that had been sold under questionable conditions around 1928. There is a smaller portion of Stoney Point in similar conditions. The non-Native community now living in West Ipperwash are afraid of losing their property and are organized by the Ontario Federation for Individual Rights and Equality (ON-FIRE). The president of ON-FIRE is one of these residents.
According to everyone we spoke to, there is a lot of tension, aggression (verbal and physical), threats and assaults going on in the two Reserves and the white community in between them. Stoney Pointers told of how a box of nails had been scattered on their road, and of people yelling out their windows as they drive by. Local residents spoke of Native people threatening them. Local business and employment is suffering because of the reduction of tourism. A Kettle Point man told of how a white resident had tried to provoke him into a fight while having a camcorder tape the incident.
Relations between the Kettle Point and Stoney Point Reserves has not been good. The Kettle Pointers (who include some of the previous Stoney Pointers) consider Stoney Point to be a part of their community, and appear to have had their own hopes for the use of the returned land. The Stoney Pointers who are currently occupying the land are clear that they are a separate First Nation and have not been well taken care of by Kettle Point. Both sides say that history supports their claims, and our research indicates that this is probably true.
Nevertheless, during the four days we spent there, we were able to have interviews with many people from all the major groups involved. The interviews gave us a small insight into the complexity of the conflict - the ongoing low-level conflicts, as well as the potential for a violent escalation. Potential flash- points include the release of the SIU report, future trials and legal processes, and confrontations over the park. These hover like lids on a kettle, waiting to boil over again. We hope that a PBI team will be able to offer a useful non-partisan observer presence in the area to:
- help the rebuilding of trust between the various parties and deter further violent incidents
- nurture the space for a just resolution that hears and addresses the valid concerns of all parties
On one side are supporters of the previous chief, Jean-Maurice Matchewan, and his successor, Harry Wawatie, most of who live in Rapid Lake. Although Harry Wawatie was selected as chief in a traditional ceremony, he is not recognized by either the Department of Indian Affairs, nor the opposing side, known as the IBC. In Jan 1996, this Interim Band Council (IBC) was recognized by DIAND as the official representatives for the band until the conflict could be resolved, on the basis of a petition that had been circulated during the previous months.
On Apr 11, Harry Wawatie's side presented a proposal for a fact- finding/mediation process. After a series of public demonstrations by the residents of Rapid Lake that included several days' occupation of the lobby of the DIAND offices, the process was accepted by both DIAND as well as the IBC. The process involves Judge Rejean Paul as chief mediator, with the participation of two elders from outside the Algonquin community, one chosen by each side. The mediation team's mandate has two parts: writing down the band's electoral custom, and addressing the social conflicts within Rapid Lake.
An initial difficulty involved the IBC's selection of an elder, but since then things have been moving forward smoothly. To date (June 7), the mediation has been working chiefly on the electoral custom. They have worked through several drafts, getting feedback from the community via questionnaires. A concern has been raised about the legal implications of adopting an electoral code, which could affect the band's relationship with Indian Affairs and subsequent claims under section 35 of the constitution.
The North America Project's involvement over these past two months has been one of monitoring progress. We interviewed Harry Wawatie in April about the history of his community and the custom of leadership selection.
[Harry Wawatie was chief of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake in the late 70's, and was recently chosen by one part of the community as chief.]
[Note: Harry refers to himself as "we" in responding to this question. I didn't ask him why - it might just be a way of talking from the Algonquin language (his first language), or may have to do with the fact that leadership is in many ways a shared responsibility between the chief and his wife.]
H: In 1957, that's when we were officially recognized as a leader. It's not an overnight job, it took a few years before we became chief. When we were first chosen, we were just named as that we were going to be a future leader for the community.
It took two years. In our language, we say if you choose a tree for some purpose, we blaze it, like a mark. So that's what they did for us, and this one elder announced it to the community, explaining a lot about forming the leadership. The reason they did that is so that the community can look at these leaders, look at who their next leader is going to be, to watch him. Everybody looks at him, how they behave, what kind of a future it's going to be. They looked at us for a long time, to see if anything was wrong, or if we were involved in bad behaviour.
The community never found any faults against us, so then it became official - then that's when we were elected, we were chosen. That's not an elective council, it's a natural election. In 1957 that's when we became official, but they didn't allow us to take the leadership for a few years, for training.
So then, in 1957, that's when the federal government claimed the land settlement and it was about three times the size of what it is now. And then in 1961 they never gave us back our full reserve, just 59 acres.
PBI: Where were you living before that?
H: We were living in Barriere, there were some houses there at that time. The reason we moved closer, was because we wanted to get the services - there was no road there at that time. There was some logging, but they never did clear-cuts, at that time they used horses.
Back in 1954, still there was not that much damage to the land. But then they invented this big machinery, and trucks, those big machines that cut logs that they have today there. That's when they started damaging lands and forestry and all that, and the territory, it didn't last 20 years and it's all clearcut and there's just a few places now that are left, that's all that we are trying to protect, the little leftover, that's what we try to depend on.
So, anyway, trying to get back to the background, we built that community, it was us that built our community. That first year in 1961, we were getting houses, first we had in two years. Then 1964, or 65, we had better housing, and that's when they started to build the school, in our community.
PBI: Did the kids go to school before that?
H: There were some, not too long ago, that were sent to a boarding school. All that distance from our community, finally the parents weren't too happy to see their kids go there, go that far for a long period of time. They had just a short visit with them in the summer, a few weeks.
So when we had a school, that's when they brought a little bit more of services, better roads, better housing, and better school, and finally we were getting pretty good services then. And then the problems began increasing, every year. Larger funding came, more projects. I don't know what's going to happen next.
PBI: Do you think there's any possibility of writing down what the traditional practice of selecting leaders would be?
H: I don't know if they (DIAND) would pay attention, because of all these allegations, all these problems. Well, it could be possible, to write those things.
PBI: Are there any traditional ways of solving problems if two groups both claim to be the leader?
H: Yes, that's what I talked about last night. I told them [the IBC] what our intention was, what we are planning to do. I even told them, it's not the court that's going to resolve the problem that they create, it's them, and they have to come up with solutions.