In a sea of purple more than 100 people marched from four directions to the main interesection in Ohsweken calling for peace here. (Photo by Jim C Powless)
It takes every person on Six Nations to “Be the Change” to reduce violence in the community.
That was the message Saturday morning at the fourth annual Walk For Change, a yearly anti-violence awareness event held by Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services here.
Over 100 marchers in a sea of white and purple came from all four directions of the community, chanting “rah, rah, rah Ganokwasra; love among us; peace and sharing, respect and caring” before meeting in the centre of Chiefswood Rd. and Fourth Line Road.
Marchers of all ages, dressed in purple t-shirts emblazoned with the words “Be the Change”, released hundreds of white balloons into the air before gathering at Veterans Park for food, learning and sharing.
District Five Coun. Hazel Johnson, who was officially sworn in Monday morning says solving the landfill crisis and getting a permanent building for Kawenni:io/Gaweni:yo are two of her top priorities.
Johnson won the District Five seat by acclamation after former District Five Coun. Darryl Hill stepped down in late July to head a new local contracting firm, A6N, a joint venture between Six Nations Band Council and Aecon.
Johnson was the only person who came forward for nomination in the district. Johnson was declared acclaimed Saturday during the official by-election held at Emily C. General.
Johnson, the former head of band council’s Human Resources department, says something needs to be done about the overflowing landfill on Fourth Line Road.
I wrote a blog last year about decolonizing the violence against Indigenous women. One of the things I said in that article is that we have to change the way that we talk about violence. We have to change our language about moving beyond “being a victim”, as Indigenous peoples, as Indigenous women. Indigenous women need peaceful relations - peaceful relations with colonial governments; peaceful relations with Indigenous governments; peaceful relations with white society; peaceful relations with white men; peaceful relations with white women; peaceful relations with Indigenous men; peaceful relations with other Indigenous women. We had this at one time. It was called the Kuswentah; peaceful relationships established along a River of Life. So what happened to these peaceful relationships where it has now become so violent in all of society, not just in Indigenous communities, but in ALL communities, in ALL societies? There has been a war against Indigenous women since colonization and it is now time for Indigenous women to take their rightful place in society, whether it take place in their own communities or in urban centres.
LONDON, ONT-Bradley Hill would only say he was “a little scared” during the gunpoint heist. But the slight crack in his voice hinted at something far more terrifying.Little wonder — with a loaded gun pointed at his head, a routine security detail for a First Nations cigarette company three years ago became a harrowing brush with death when two men commandeered Hill’s car at a bingo hall, shot out a back tire after driving him to a deserted road and took off with more than $109,000 in cash and cheques. It would have been a huge score, but the police were already watching Maurice Villeneuve, 43, and had his SUV in their sights again within hours of the brazen daytime robbery at Munsee-Delaware First Nation, near London, three years ago. Wednesday, at the start of the Superior Court trial in London for Villeneuve, of Stratford, and Brennan Nicholas, 22, the Crown told the jury it should be able to connect the dots of the investigation on May 24, 2012 — and it shouldn’t be difficult, given a bingo hall surveillance video, evidence of a high-risk takedown and DNA analysis. And there’s the stacks of cash, placed with corresponding receipts from Grand River Enterprises found in Villeneuve’s SUV when he and Nicholas were arrested in Stratford.Villeneuve and Nicholas pleaded not guilty to seven charges in the robbery.Assistant Crown attorney James Spangenberg gave the jury a case overview and six witnesses gave evidence.Villeneuve, Spangenberg said, was under police surveillance the day of the robbery and was seen driving from Stratford to Munsee-Delaware in his black Buick Rainier SUV.Villeneuve was followed to where he parked in a driveway on Bodkin Road at about 12:30 p.m. and the surveillance was abandoned. About 30 minutes later, Hill, 36, and three security staff were delivering cigarettes to the bingo hall on Jubilee Road. Two men were in a large white cube van. Hill and another man were following in the Impala.The crew had started their deliveries that morning from the Six Nations reserve, near Brantford. They’d made stops at the Oneida First Nation, near London, and were on their way to the bingo hall.The routine was for the truck to hold the product and the security car to look after the money.The team was on extra alert.A month earlier, another company crew had been robbed at the same bingo hall.Hill testified that between a couple deliveries, there was a beige GMC pickup truck in the area with no licence plate or tailgate. That truck turned out to be stolen. What happened at the parking lot could be seen in the grainy bingo hall video. The cube van pulled in, followed by the Impala. The men in the truck could be seen taking cases of smokes into the building. Hill’s partner in the car, his job to watch the money as it was paid to the truck crew, got out and headed inside.
That’s when a man, described in his 20s with a red bandana over his face, a black ball cap, sunglasses, short-sleeved T-shirt and pants, streaked across the lot to the car and jumped in the back seat.
Hill testified he didn’t see the man until the last moment as he caught the glint of his silver handgun.
Six Nations is bracing for the retrial of Kent Owen Squire Hill convicted just four years ago of killing Tashina General who was four months pregnant with his child when he hid her body in a shallow grave.
Hill was convicted in 2011 to life in prison for the second degree murder in the death of Tashina who had gone missing Jan. 22, 2008.
Two weeks ago, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted Squire-Hill a re-trial and community members are reeling from the news.
Bev Jacobs, a Six Nations lawyer, former president of the Native Women’s Association of Canada, and cousin to Tashina says if the re-trial moves forward, it will re-victimize the family and community.
Dozens of people gathered for a rally in Hamilton on Friday, shutting down parts of the Clairmont access going up the escarpment, to demand justice for missing and murdered indigenous women.
John Garlow of Six Nations and Kristen Villebrum, of Hamilton, led the day-long rally, held from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., as dozens of people throughout the day, both native and non-native, honked their support for the cause.
"We're having a sacred fire for missing and murdered indigenous women and part of that is to enhance the voice of our stolen sisters," said Garlow. "I am holding the Crown of Canada responsible for our missing sisters. I want to help the families have some kind of answers on what happened to their loved ones. We need a government that will hold an inquiry (into missing and murdered indigenous women) and get some answers. It's not right that they treat us like this."
The issue of an inquiry into more than 1,200 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada over the past 30 years has been a controversial topic for the Conservative government, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper refusing to hold the inquiry and telling the press: "It isn't really high on our radar, to be honest."
Mohawk Chapel committee chairman Barry Hill shows the Queen Anne Bible (Photo by Donna Duric)
The original hardwood plank floors still gleam. The original pews are still sturdy, holding faithful worshippers from Six Nations in the same spot their ancestors sat more than two centuries ago.
The oldest surviving church in Ontario, and the first Protestant church in Canada, Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks celebrated its 230th birthday on Sunday, standing as an important reminder of the role Six Nations played in the early settlement of Canada and what would become Ontario.
It was a birthday steeped in celebration of the rich historical significance the little white chapel holds, a place where dozens of stories converge to remind people how Six Nations came to settle on the banks of the Grand River and become the thriving community it is today.
Built in 1785, Her Majesty’s Royal Chapel of the Mohawks was a gift from the Queen, thanking Six Nations for their support of the British during the American Revolutionary War.
A number of Six Nations community members and leaders have been in talks with McMaster Sick Kids Hospital and Hamilton Health Sciences ever since the case of a Six Nations girl with cancer resulted in a controversial court case and a threat to force her into chemotherapy.
The girl can only be identified by her initials - J.J. - due to a court-ordered publication ban. She was 11 years old last fall when McMaster Sick Kids hospital took the Brantford Children’s Aid Society to court to try and force them to seize the girl and place her on chemotherapy as opposed to traditional medicine.
The story caught headlines around the country. A Brantford judge ruled in November that the girl and her mother had a right to use traditional medicine as opposed to chemotherapy to fight acute lymphoblastic leukemia, the cancer that J.J. was diagnosed with last year.
In January this year, an 11-year-old girl from New Credit who also had leukemia died. Makayla Sault also opted out of chemotherapy and used traditional treatments instead, resulting in a call to child protection officials by McMaster Sick Kids hospital.
Red dresses floating in the wind in a forest of white birch.
Isn’t it the little things that always get to us.
In First Nations communities and urban centres aboriginal people all know the ghostly sight and heartache that comes with it.
Winnipeg’s Jaime Black calls the installation The REDress Project. It is her memorial to the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women whose disappearance or death strikes at our hearts.
Entitled From Sorrow to Strength the red dress has become a national reminder of missing and murdered indigenous women.
This Sunday tears will fall, memories will be ignited as vigils are held across the country drawing attention to the call for a national inquiry.
In Edmonton this week Aboriginal organizations, women’s groups, law enforcement, family members and political leaders are meeting for the Spirit of Our Sisters conference, the first national conference focusing on missing and murdered aboriginal women.
Some at the conference resent what they are calling the politicalization of family tragedy.
Others are hopeful the publicity and focus will bring answers to their pain
The Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police sees the deaths and disappearances as part of “systemic issue”.
An issue perpetuated by poverty and racism.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper told us it was not a sociological phenomenon but a police issue.
Just a few months ago the RCMP told us that a serial killer may have been responsible for the deaths of several aboriginal women in the Edmonton area.
And will anyone be able to forget 15 year old Tina Fontaine, whose lifeless body was pulled Winnipeg’s Assiniboine River.
Or 16 year old Rinelle Harper who was beaten, assaulted and left there to die.
And there is Tashina General, killed, her lifeless pregnant body buried in a shallow grave in a bush at Six Nations. Her former boyfriend, Kent Owen Squire Hill sentenced to life in prison for her death.
But soon that too will be re-awakened when the appeal courts hear a retrial granted to the young man who killed her.
Simple, haunting...empty red dresses hanging in a quiet forest reminding us of the thousands of stories that are yet to be told.
Jaime Black touched our hearts.
And Ganohkwasra Family Assault Support Services with their march for non violence touched our lives.
On Sunday let us all pledge to bring peace among us.
The red dresses are a stark reminder of the work that needs to be done. Let it start right here at home.
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